Finally, I got a chance to watch the movie version of the Les Miserables musical. It is directed by Oscar-winning director, Tom Hooper, and stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. The story tells about an ex-convict named Jean Valjean, who broke his parole so he can go back to the good side. But he is now pursued by Inspector Javert, who still believes that he’s a bad guy. While on the run, Valjean made a promise to Fantine that he will take care of her child, Cosette, when she dies. Few years later, Valjean fulfills his promise and Cosette grows up into a beautiful lady. However, their lives got entangled in an uprising led by French Republicans.
How I became a fan of Les Mis started 11 years ago when our university has a production of the musical. It was an amazing experience even though I don’t understand much of the story (Well, I was 12 years at that time). With my fascination of the musical, I researched on it and found out that it’s based on novel by Victor Hugo, who also did the Hunchback of Notre Dame. A few months later, my mom bought me a copy of the novel. And it’s very long and only read some of the important parts since I know how the story ended. It’s only in high school that I’ve finished the entire novel without skipping. Still, I enjoyed it and learned some bits on what Hugo wrote about his time. To be honest, I didn’t consider comparing the novel and musical since you still get the same story and meaning even though I’ve read that the musical made it a bit lighter.
There’s also the 1998 movie adaptation starring Liam Neeson which I’ve watched before. But I didn’t like it. I know there’s no singing but I didn’t like how they changed the story and characters too much. Plus, the barricade story, which is one of the highlights of the story, is so meh. It’s forgettable actually. And recently, I got a copy of the 25th anniversary concert which has Lea Salonga in it. It was beautiful even though they’re just singing with little acting…..but there’s a certain Jonas brother which sort of ruined the experience. Take a guess on who that is.
This 2012 musical film is more of a condensed version of the musical. Some of the songs were shorten to fit 2 hours and yet, it even sticks to the novel, particularly on some certain scenes such the person who delivers Marius’ letter to Cosette which was intercepted by Valjean. Plus, I’m glad that they included Marius’ grandpa in this movie even though he had a minor appearance. They also added a new song entitled, “Suddenly” which is written and composed by the original directors of the musical. I know some people find it unnecessary but this gave a scoop on Valjean’s realization of taking care of the young Cosette.
Now for the singing…..before a lot were skeptical on singing abilities of Jackman, Hathaway and Crowe. But to be honest, these three really do sing. Jackman had theater experience before and if you had seen his opening performance in the Oscars 2009, you wouldn’t guess that Wolverine could sing. Hathaway also had some theater experience too and I was amazed on her acting here. Before she used to be that innocent girl in those Disney movies. But after she stood out in playing Catwoman and later, Fantine, this girl really deserved an award for Best Supporting Actress.
And now for Crowe…..well, I’ll be honest……he’s good and I have no problems with his singing. May not be in the same level as Philip Quast, Norm Lewis or the others from Broadway but he did a great job in portraying Javert. Sure he doesn’t have theater experience like the rest of the cast, but he sings too and he has a band just like Johnny Depp. Too bad a lot of people didn’t noticed this and not to mention, they kept comparing him to the theater actors which is like comparing apples and oranges. Yet, this irrational hate of him just for this role is very stupid and immature. You want to hear the worst singing? Listen to Pierce Brosnan’s performance in Mamma Mia! Now that’s terrible singing.
For the rest of the cast, they’re great and I’m surprised that Samantha Barks reprised her role as Eponine after her role in the 25th anniversary concert. This means that this would make her a star in movie industry. But the weakest link here IMO is Sacha Boran Cohen’s portrayal as Thenadier. He was great in the “Master of the House” song but later, it seems that he ran out of energy. It’s sort of disappointing actually.
Now for the other aspects in this movie, the camera angles are a bit annoying. I don’t mind the close-ups of the actors because this is Hooper’s intention of getting the emotions. But there’s some shaky camera movements there which is very distracting. And there’s the transitions too which could confused a lot of new viewers such as Marius’ relationship with Cosette. Understandable that this was condensed in the musical but in the movie, it would annoy you if you’re first-timer.
Despite of its flaws, this movie is great. I know some don’t like musicals but give this movie a try and bear with the singing. This is not Glee where they made their own covers of famous songs. This is not some happy dappy Disney musical. This is a musical of one man’s struggle to do something good in a period where social unrest spread across France. I just hope this won some Oscars though I had a feeling that Li of Pi and Lincoln would take the lead.