★ | Les Misérables, a story of crime, broken dreams and valiance. Set in the French Revolution it explores a story of Jean- Valjean, a so called criminal who breaks his parole to start a new life of truth and compassion.
This extraordinary story takes a look at the harsh realities faced in the desperate 19th century. With its musical stage version in its 28th year, it is still breaking box office records across 42 countries. But can the same be said for the new movie version directed by Tom Hooper?
As a huge fan of the musical stage version, I have watched the DVD version countless times, with the water works never failing to present themselves. It has to be said, the movie was positively shameful. Not only did I find myself becoming bored throughout its repetitiveness, but found myself becoming increasingly angry that such an abomination would have been allowed to happen to such a powerful story. I can honestly say that this is the most disappointed that I have ever been by a movie release.
The beauty of a stage musical is in the ability, or skill, or the performer. By their captivating expression they are able to tell any story without the need for superfluous stage sets. They act as the story teller, allowing the viewer’s imagination to go on a journey exploring a whole multitude of possibilities. In comparison the film acts like a gimmick; it does not do justice to the original musical.
Not only was I anticipating the movie to take a slightly different tact, such as using spoken word at intervals rather than a continuous song for two and a half hours; I had realised that my imagination of scenes from the stage version had presented better scenic qualities than the movie was ever able to deliver. For the most part it lacked the honesty of moments of heartache, and the sensitivity needed to transform a quite obvious set into something that is timeless.
Hugh Jackman, who played Jean Valjean was surprisingly talented in the vocal department, had moments of brilliance, slightly washed out by bad diction in some songs.
The undoubted star however was the sensational Eddie Redmayne who played Marius; a truly emotive actor who has a rare quality to make one feel like one is part of the story. Truly captivating! Other notable commendations go to Anne Hathaway for her breathtakingly honest portrayal of Fantine, Helena Bonham Carter for yet another superbly eccentric performance as Madame Thenardier, and Samantha Barks who plays Eponine is a star in the making.
As for the low points, these came too frequently for my liking. Russell Crowe painfully killed the music from start to finish and did not get to grips at all with the portrayal of Javert. It needed a strong dominant actor, which Crowe’s monotonous presence did not even nearly cut. In fact I have tweeted Russell Crowe for my money back!
It is safe to say that I will be sticking to the stage version of Les Miserable, as it is one of the most wonderful musicals every made; a battle of emotional highs and lows. But I’m afraid the movie release just didn’t translate this sensation.