Tom Hooper follows up his Oscar winning The King’s Speech with the big screen adaptation of the musical Les Miserables. With a cast that includes Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russell Crowe what could possibly go wrong? My review.
Let me place a disclaimer on this review before I get attacked by fans, I love musicals and I went into this film very excited for it. That being said, I was brutally disappointed. Les Miserables has a obnoxious flair for the theatrics and while that is allowed in a musicals, this dramatic tone that slaps you in the face sometimes is the downfall of it.
Les Miserables follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) as he takes care of the late Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter while running from Javert (Russell Crowe) who is trying to track him down after he broke parole. This choice changes the course of multiple lives which takes up most of the last hour and a half of the movie.
The first thirty minutes of the film were great. I was engaged and thought that Jackman was doing a fantastic job, even though at the same time I was laughing at how out of place Crowe sounded singing. Once Hathaway was introduced I was blown away.
She commanded the screen every moment she was on it and really created the emotional core of the film early on. Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was breathtaking and should most likely nab her an Oscar. But once she was gone, I never had someone I truly cared about and this is when the film started to break apart.
The first problem was the constant singing. I understand that it is a musical but great musicals have speaking lines too. This isn’t the theater, it is a movie, and a movie needs speaking parts so that the story can move along. Les Miserables desperately needed some dialogue in between the songs because the plot was lost in the constant singing.
I could follow the plot but I wasn’t invested in it because I felt like I was only given the bare minimum and not enough to emotionally invest. Speaking was also needed to make some scenes more significant instead the singing hurt it and I ignored the scene.
Second issue was with the directing. Hooper hurt a lot of the song with his constant need to get a close-up of the main singer. While this worked in a few instances, mainly in Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” it did not work on some of the songs and it showed his lack of experience in directing music.
If he would of used the scenery and sets more he could of gained as much emotion as he did with the close-ups. The editing was also at fault because in many occasions they could cut from one song to another and it would lose me because I wasn’t sure why or what was happening due to the lack of speaking.
Now even though I have bashed a lot of the film I do want to point out that I loved the main songs. Those deserved a dramatic musical number because of how well put together they were but they lost their emotional investment because they would get buried under the other minor songs and I wasn’t sure if I were supposed to pay attention to it or just ignore it like some of the other minor songs.
This is where more speaking would help because it would of made the major songs more powerful and meaningful because they were giant numbers in between the regular dialogue.
Hathaway was the clear star of the movie and she should get a lot of Oscar recognition for her work in the film. I thought Jackman was good but not great. He started out very strong but became weaker and weaker throughout. Crowe was alright but as I said earlier his singing badly distracted me.
Honestly my two favorite characters outside of Hathaway had to be Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier and Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier. Whenever those two were on screen they were hilarious and I loved how they could sing and not have to be so dramatic like the others. They could bring life and humor into the songs and it made it a lot more entertaining.
Les Miserables was a disappointment to me but wasn’t a terrible movie. It is not something I am dying to see again soon but will be one that I may try and revisit. It really had a lot of capability of being great but seemed to just fall flat for me. I fault that mainly to the directing of Hooper rather than the actors. While I know it will gain a lot of Oscar buzz it does not deserve to be the Best Picture winner.