As I've said before, musicals are not my favorite. However, the trailers for Les Miserables absolutely blew me away, especially Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" short trailer. Hearing her sing that song had me hooked instantly. Still, I was worried, because, no matter how great that one song was, the entire film was still going to be a musical. I just didn't think I would be able to get over that. Also, before I go any further, I just want to let you all know that this is my first time to ever experience the story of Les Miserables. My small amount of culture does not contain this classic story, as I have never read the book or seen any version of the musical. So, not knowing what to expect (aside from a ton of singing), I traipsed off to the theater to see Les Miserables. Also, from here to the end of the review, I want you to sing every word that I have written. It will put you in the musical mood!
Because I was a Les Mis virgin, the story was quite intriguing to me. However, I was not too hopeful for a happy story, considering the title of the film and its nature, and my hopes were just right. In fact, I was quite surprised at the ending, as I expected complete and total sadness. I have had a few people tell me that the entire film was too depressing for them, but I don't agree with that. As an avid moviegoer, I really enjoy both sad and happy, life and death, good and bad, when it comes to movies. I may be alone on this soapbox, but, if you get happy every time, there is no need to watch a movie, because you know exactly what will happen. Nothing is more exciting than a film that keeps you on your emotional toes, and I believe this version of Les Miserables would do that for you, regardless of how many times you have read or seen the story.
With the Oscar buzz surrounding Les Miserables, I focused more on each individual character than I usually would, so my critique of each character may be a bit more detailed than usual. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the casting and the performances.
Everyone has been so rough on Russell Crowe, and I guess I'm sort of chiming in. I feel really bad for the guy though. His performance as Javert was probably the worst in the film, and most have been dogging him for his singing abilities, which I believe is harsh. To me, his singing was fine. It wasn't great, but that made the film a little more realistic in my opinion. Just think about it this way--if you randomly pulled twenty people off of the street and told them to sing the rest of their lives to one another, what are the chances that all twenty would be able to sing amazingly well? My problem with Crowe was the amount of emotion that he put into his character. He just didn't act mean enough to me. No other performance was really bad, but I did not like the character of Eponine. Samantha Barks gave a great performance, yet I thought her character was completely unnecessary to the story and could have made the film at least fifteen minutes shorter. But, who am I to mess with such historical characters?
Anne Hathaway is almost a lock to win best supporting actress for her role as Fantine, and she is certainly deserving of the praise that she is receiving. Her performance was absolutely amazing, mostly because of "I Dreamed a Dream." You will be hearing plenty of praise coming her way over the next two months, so just get used to it. Additionally, Hugh Jackman will likely merit a nomination as the lead character, Jean Valjean, and, just like Hathaway, Jackman is deserving. I'm not sure if he will make it on to my list of bests from 2012, so you will just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, he gave a great performance and has an amazing singing voice. In addition to the two obvious performances, which I have already named, I also thought Sacha Baron Cohen's performance as Thenardier was brilliantly funny. In a very serious film, he brought some amazing comedic relief. The kind that only Sacha Baron Cohen can bring. Finally, Daniel Huttlestone's Gavroche was great as well, as I am the sucker for child actors.
As I have said before, a great film is not easily forgotten. A week later you are still thinking about it, and, in this case, singing its songs. I absolutely fell in love with this film and these characters, which is something that has never happened for me and a musical before. Honestly, I think what made the difference was the constant singing in Les Miserables. In most musicals that I have seen, there is a lot of speaking and then they just randomly break into song, and that frustrates the crap out of me. I just never understood why someone would randomly break into song or how that could be entertaining. Les Miserables, on the other hand was sung from beginning to end, and it made a little more sense. It didn't seem like they were trying to make the music work, and it just flowed a lot better. With all that being said, kudos to director Tom Hooper for making a musical that I absolutely loved. I give Les Miserables 4.05 out of 5 stars.