A story that comes from one of the world’s great novels. Music from an award-winning musical that earned global acclaim and is the third-longest running show on Broadway. A director whose last outing was the eloquent Oscar-winning drama, The King’s Speech. And a powerful, charismatic ensemble cast. All signals seem to point to the Oscar ceremony.
Les Misérables, (or Les Miz as the stage show was nicknamed), has been sweeping up nominations by the dozens, especially for its lead actors Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. With Golden Globes and Screen Actor’s Guild nominations (among many others) already in, the Oscars are but a step away.
In this classic story of hope and redemption set against the backdrop of turbulent 19th century France, Jackman plays the central character of Jean Valjean, who is jailed for 19 years for stealing bread. He breaks his parole in an attempt to change his destiny and attains respectability as mayor of a small town in France. However, he has to watch his back at all times as he is relentlessly pursued by the obsessive Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).
Valjean encounters all manner of people on his journey but, most poignantly, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a worker who falls ill and hands over her illegitimate daughter Cosette to an unscrupulous couple (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter). Valjean brings up the girl and looks after her like his own (Amanda Seyfried plays the grown-up Cosette). In the intertwined fates of the child and the ageing ex-convict lies a tale of dreams and sacrifice.
Excitingly, Hooper has got his stars to sing live all through his movie; no sterile recording studios here. Which means the singing may not sometimes be perfect, but has vitality and truth.
Hooper has also adopted an approach that is far removed from the quiet, understated beauty of The King’s Speech. Les Miz is a movie on the grand scale; it uses the high notes and the big moments.
If you’re a music lover, this one’s made for you. If you aren’t, there are other compensations: the movie has performances that most critics have been pulling out the adjectives for. Nevertheless a note of warning: the original musical had practically no dialogue and the movie has added some, but the tale is told largely through its scenes and music. Not your regular cup of tea. But, then, is that what you want at the movies?
Bottomline: If you’re a music lover, this one’s made for you. If you aren’t, there are other compensations.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Tom Hooper
Releases: December 25, 2012