It was my first film of 2013, and also my favourite musical. So needless to say ‘Les Miserables’ had to meet some incredibly high expectations; most of them mine.
Annoyingly Hugh Jackman had been nominated for best actor in a leading role by the academy. As well as Anne Hathaway for best supporting actress two days before the film was released in the UK. Which evidently put me under pressure to be left ‘speechless’ by Hathaway’s performance as Fontine: a loving yet heartbroken prostitute (probably the most ‘Miserables’ of all the characters). And left ‘in awe’ of Hugh Jackman’s’ portrayal of ‘Jean Valjean’ as many critics were. However having witnessed the operatic master that is Alfie Boe who majestically seduces entire audiences with his voice in the west end: could anything Hollywood do really match the classic show?
Well, it turns out it can. Although I’m sure it would make a more interesting review if I disagreed with the millions that called ‘Les Miserables’ ‘astounding’ but unfortunately I do. It certainly is a film-lovers Havana with its epic cinematography (especially in the opening scene) incredible cast and remarkable direction from Tom Hooper who truly pushed the boundaries of film-making and set a bar that all other directors should endeavour to meet. But I tried to hate it, promise.
What is it about ‘Les miserables’ that makes it so beautifully breath-taking you ask?
Firstly it has to be the ensemble. Now I’d be lying if I hadn’t foolishly gone to see a film just because it has an all-star cast in my younger much more naïve days, because regretfully I have. Films like ‘New year’s Eve’ and ‘Valentine’s day’ are what’s described as rotten oranges. They look perfectly fine on the outside (due to a well-edited trailer and huge promotional budget) but sickening when you eat it (or in this case make the rookie mistake of watching it). But ‘Les Miserables’ is different. The a-list cast really do live up to the hype, and are actually a-list. Let’s take Anne Hathaway-the most talked about actress this year yet I was still sceptical. Yes, she can play a princess but Fontine is quite the reverse-undoubtedly the character that begs for an audiences sympathy, and wouldn’t you know, she managed to make me cry multiple times with only 15 minutes screen time in all.
Hugh Jackman also astounded me- although his vocal talent was never questioned-I was prejudiced after having believed he was a mutant with knives for fingers the majority of my childhood. Nevertheless my pre-judgement was again put to shame and the way Hugh Jackman genuinely handed himself over to his character is to be commended and of course the Academy love one to suffer for their art, whether it be shaving your head like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘50/50’ or dramatically losing weight like Natalie Portman in ‘Black swan’ and Hugh Jackman did not disappoint, losing a whopping 30lbs and shaving his head to realistically present to us starved, browbeaten prisoner in 19th century France. Eddie Redmayne was also a pleasant surprise. His voice was closer to operatic than expected (defiantly romantic lead worthy) and the incredibly intimate close up shots Eddie Redmayne’s boyish freckled face didn’t go amiss amongst a younger audience.
Unfortunately nothing’s perfect, and although Russell Crowe was able to instill fear anytime he appeared onscreen as the cold hearted ‘Inspector Javert’ his singing voice was at times painful to listen to (especially the solos). Needless to say the four months of singing lessons was money not well spent.
Nevertheless the film was a triumph. The actors live singing made the production raw and allowed them to take risks we seldom see in Hollywood blockbusters today, making ‘Les Miserables’ stand out from the other film-musicals. The authenticity of the sets and the colossus CGI tasks must also be applauded, but the tributes to the stage shows I found warming. With the west-end star Samantha Barks playing ‘Eponine’ and hundreds of west-enders cast as extras including one of my favourites Kerry Ellis, the original medium of the musical felt appreciated. Aaron Tveit also waved the Broadway flag playing ‘Enjolras’ making the production inclusive with bounds of talent. Yes it will make you cry, but I challenge anyone to not spare a chuckle with the hilarious one liners from Sacha baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as ‘The Thernardiers’.
For anyone who doesn’t believe my shudder inducing and clichéd however honest praise for the film, should simply see it for themselves.
My rating: ★★★★