“I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving” – Fantine
Les Misérables is the film adaptation of the musical of the same name (which also happens to be adapted from Victor Hugo’s novel). It is the story of a man named Jean Valijean who, after being released from prison, is shown a random act of kindness which changes his life, leading him to skip out on his parole, making him a wanted man once again. Years later, Valijean has become an honest businessman but is haunted by his past when Inspecter Javert comes onto the scene and begins to suspect that Valijean isn’t quite what he claims to be. Set in Paris in the 1800’s, a lot more happens in this three-hour epic, like a desperate woman becoming a prostitute, young lovers meeting, a revolt involving barricades, suicide, a marriage, and so much more. What makes this especially unique is that this film is almost completely done in song, making it a total musical.
I was following this movie for quite awhile before it was released. Mainly this was for two reasons:
- The movie was receiving A TON of hype.
- I consider myself to be a fan of musicals.
I mean, I love watching some Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or Sound of Music every now and then, so I was pretty excited. Then the first trailer came out, featuring Anne Hathaway singing, and I was dying to see it (if you haven’t seen that, go online and watch it now).
So, the question is, did this movie live up to the hype and meet my expectations?
Simply put: yes
To start talking about this movie, I feel like I should really start with the acting. Valijean was played by Hugh Jackman, who I had actually never heard sing prior to watching this. Jackman was a much better singer than I thought he would be, and I was very impressed with him overall. He did a nice job and I imagine he will at least be nominated for an Oscar for this performance. Russell Crowe plays the villain, Javert, in this film, and I was surprised by him as well. This was actually because, due to word of mouth and having peeked online at some other reviews, I was led to believe that he was a horrible singer. While I’ll admit that he didn’t sound as good as some of the other cast members, I didn’t think he did a bad job at all. I really liked his character, and he even sang one of my favorite songs in this movie (Stars) pretty well. Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, did fine but was not in the movie very much at all. Since she seemed to be such an important character (young Cosette is the little blonde-headed girl on the promotional material), I expected to see more of her than I did. Eddie Redmayne plays Marius, a young man who involves himself in the revolt. I’ll admit, I had never heard of Redmayne prior to watching this, but I thought the guy was talented, and I look forward to seeing his next project. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were also in this movie as filthy innkeepers who make various appearances in the film. Not surprisingly, they provided much of the comic relief but aren’t in the movie too much.
One actress in this movie I haven’t mentioned yet really blew me away, and that is Anne Hathaway as Fantine. She is in the movie for only part of this movie, but her moments were by far my favorites. Not only does Hathaway have a beautiful voice, but there is one sequence where she really shows off her acting, appearing to be as miserable and wretched as someone in her position would really be. To put her performance into perspective, I am a 19 year-old male and I like to think I can handle a lot, but during one sequence, I cried a little in the theater. Something powerful enough to make me feel that way should be commended, so I think Ms. Hathaway deserves all the praise that she will inevitably get for her performance.
Another thing about this movie I liked a lot was the songs, which is great because there are a lot of them. In my opinion, everyone in this movie is a good singer and actor/actress, so all the songs are believable and sound nice. 1800’s Paris has also never looked or felt more real; set design and makeup for some of the background characters in this movie are nothing short of astounding, making you feel as if you are truly looking into this troubled time that is so full of palpable tension.
I also have to give director Tom Hooper credit for having the courage to take this on. I think the reason this is the first film of Les Misérables as a musical is that it’s hard to do. You have to worry about all the regular troubles of making a movie, but you also must make sure that you can find men and women who are talented enough to sing LOADS of dialogue well and can also embody their characters. A ton of time must have been put into the casting for this movie, and it really shows when you see these performances.
The biggest gripe I have about this movie has to be its length. Going into this, I was expecting an easy to watch 3 hour movie with some singing, but I must admit that I felt the length of this movie quite often. At 157 minutes, this movie is certainly shorter than other movies I’ve seen this year, but it feels so much longer. With that being said I don’t think any of the scenes in this movie could have been cut, but the movie just felt longer than it should have. Another problem I could see some people having is, as I said, almost all of this movie is presented in song. While I personally didn’t mind this, if you don’t like musicals, you will be miserable watching this movie.
THE VERDICT: DVD WORTHY (if you like musicals)
I was on the fence between Ticket and DVD worthy, but for me, this movie was worth purchasing. Solid performances, a rich story, and Anne Hathaway all made this movie a favorite of the year for me, but the film’s perceived length made me not want to rewatch it time after time. If you like musicals at all, go see this one.
So, what did you think of Les Misérables? Did you like my review? Comment below or send me an email to let me know. As always, thanks for reading and make sure to check out some of my other reviews and to follow me if you want to be notified when I post new ones.