I came out of seeing Les Miserables an emotional wreck. I wasn’t expecting the film to hit me this hard. After all everyone’s singing –it can’t be sad right?
The basic plot of Les Miserable starts in 1815 when prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is set free after nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. When he breaks his parole to start a new better life for himself under a new identity he is followed by Russell Crowe’s Javert who is determined to bring him to justice. Years later Valjean’s life crosses that of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen and later Amanda Seyfried) changing his life forever.
It’s astonishing that Tom Hooper is not nominated for Best Director at this year’s Oscars. The scale of this film is immense and he handles an all-star cast and the extravagantly detailed sets with aplomb. Anyone else might have let the grandness of this film overwhelmed the film itself, Hooper manages to keep everything in order and produce a fantastic film at the same time.
As the film is set in three time periods it appropriate that there’s three actors who stand out in each time period.
In the film’s first section set in 1815, Hugh Jackman is amazing as Jean Valjean. When we first see him he is thin, haggard, a prisoner whose been barely treated like a human for nineteen years. His desperation shows throughout his face and his transformation from petty criminal without hope to a well-respected man with a new sense of dignity and responsibility is convincingly portrayed. He thoroughly deserved his win at the golden globes.
Speaking of golden globe winners-best supporting actress Anne Hathaway steals the second part of the film based eight years later. Although she is barely in the film Hathaway makes a huge impact. Her character’s Fantine’s fall from grace is harrowing and Hathaway bares it all in her performance. Fantine is broken and has given up everything for the love of her child. It was a risk for Hooper to make the cast sing live on film, rather than in a recording studio but it pays off when you hear the emotion and despair in her voice during “I dreamed a dream”.
The last part of the film takes place nine years later. It’s here where newcomer Samantha Barks (from tv’s I’d do Anything) stands out against the Hollywood heavies acting beside her. It helps that she played Eponine in the west end. As lonely, hopelessly in love Eponine she conveys much more feeling and emotion than the bland love story between Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) does. Her song of unrequited love for Marius in “On my own” shows her impressive vocal range whilst pulling tightly on your heart strings. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor girl.
It’s fair to say that Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks break my heart in this film.
However the film is not without its flaws. It does feel too long at times, where the story seems to drag. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to the story of Cosette and Marius (mostly because I cared about poor Eponine instead). Also Russell Crowe doesn’t have the strength in his singing voice that the other actors do, although it’s not as bad as others may have you believe, but he does struggle with the singing but then that is the risk in letting all your actors sing live. However he acts the part well and is an intimidating antagonist to Jackman’s Valjean.
These points however don’t get in the way of a heartbreakingly, emotional film full of terrific performances.
Tears, young love, unrequited love, death, a man on the run and a student uprising-the film packs a lot in its 158 running time, but it wasn’t a disappointment.