Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Corner: Les Misérables

by Candace Salima
29 December 2012

Movie:  Les Misérables
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried
Runtime/Rating: 157 Minutes / PG-13

Nominated for four Golden Globes, Les Misérables, the motion picture, does not disappoint. I came to the film with a high level of expectation in a number of areas. As one who knows every word of dialogue, song, character, etc. I had high expectations for every single actor.

The story itself is unparalleled. Victor Hugo penned Les Misérables and published it in 1862. It told the story of a man imprisoned for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread and trying to escape, a particularly merciless and zealous lawman, and a woman consigned to the streets by the viciousness of both women and men. It is an enduring story of death, injustice, redemption, forgiveness, love, and revolution. 17th Century France was a particularly dark time in French history, and this is the background for Victor Hugo's story.

Seen by over 53 million people in 38 countries and heard in 21 languages since its first performance in 1985, Les Misérables is one of the greatest stage musicals of all time, winning seven Tony Awards, and is still performed on stages in London and around the world. The motion picture adaptation of Hugo's book, and Boubil & Schonberg's musical adaptation, gives us a movie that will leave a mark on the soul of each viewer, for Hugo's book is one of the most powerful telling of man vs. man in literary history. Uniquely, the performers sang everything live with only piano music playing into nearly invisible earbuds. It set the stage for one of the most unique cinematic experiences in industry history, the perfect blending of stage and film.

Hugh Jackman gives us a stunning interpretation of Jean Valjean. He brings a power and depth to the role that is Oscar worthy, proving with his voice why he is already a Tony and Emmy award winning actor. Anne Hathaway also flexed her acting muscles in the role of Fantine, showcasing a stunning voice and acting ability. Both Jackman and Hathaway were equal to the monumental task before them. Russell Crowe, as Javert, did an amazing job in the role of the merciless lawman, but he simply doesn't have the vocal chops to bring musical justice to the role. And Amanda Seyfried, as Cozette, had the range, but not the vocal power.

The best musical performances in the movie were given by Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) and Samantha Barks (Eponine). Their voices more than equaled the task before them. Jackman, also a very skilled vocalist, was compared in my mind to Gary Morris' performance as Jean Valjean on the London stage, and I'm afraid Jackman didn't quite measure up, vocally. That doesn't take anything away from his amazing performance, I'm simply saying he didn't meet Morris' level of vocal skill.

The movie, in and of itself, is a cinematic masterpiece, although Hooper had an unnerving tendency to zoom all the way in on the actors' faces. I'm not sure why we needed to see every pore and pimple on their faces; it pulled power from some of the moments, as did the odd angles, but that's more likely a personal preference rather than a cinematic mistake. Did I like it? I was spellbound throughout the entire 2 1/2 hours. Les Misérables scores a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I predict a number of Oscar wins and a certain worldwide success. Congratulations on a masterful adaptation of Hugo's original story.

(Published on News Corner USA and US Daily Review)

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Candace Salima is an author, columnist, and makes her home in the Rocky Mountains. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Facebook.


Copyright 2012. All rights reserved by Candace E. Salima.
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