Let the doubters beware. Les Misérables is here, fully realized on film. It captures the breathtaking scenery of the French Alps and gritty underbelly of early 19th century poverty juxtaposed against opulent wealth. Not surprisingly, it is a visual feast. What is surprising is the new standard which the film maker has set for musicals on film. In short, this is how it is supposed to be done from now on.
Each line sung is true to the Broadway production and is performed simultaneously with the acting performance. That is, the singing performances were not recorded in advance of filming. This added emotional realism. Although the many of the performances are not perfect, they are appropriate for their characters. In particular, Anne Hatheway (Fantine), Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), and Eddie Redmayne (Marius) are vocally brilliant in addition to stellar acting performances. Russel Crowe (Inspector Javert) and Amanda Seyfreid (Cosette) both turn in marvelous acting performances despite weaker vocals. The entire ensemble cast is strong musically and in their acting.
The story follows a decades long pursuit by a relentless lawman (Javert) and an ex-prisoner (Valjean) who had broken parole. Matters become complicated when Valjean agrees to raise Fantine’s daughter, Cosette.
Les Misérables is not a family film. A heart-breaking foray into human misery via prostitution, suicide, injustice, war, and human suffering, it is rated PG-13 for “suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements.”
If you go, bring a box of Kleenex. Ladies, you might want to to do the same. Don’t look at me that way, men. If you have a heart, it will be broken in short order by this brilliant film adaptation the musical based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel.
The film ought to make us think harder about how we view women enslaved by prostitution and people who struggle to make something out of their lives after years of incarceration. No simple, trite answers or moralism to be found in this story. Just flesh and blood people like you and me. No better, no worse. Each with dreams….