Les Mis

The much anticipated film was finally available for preview and I went expecting great things. The trailers were all very well done, I liked the idea of the actors singing live rather than using pre-recorded tracks as it added to the emotion; which they had in spades.
The film began with an almost cartoonish look, the colour, camera fly in and soaring music bringing us into Jean Valjean and other post revolutionary French prisoners hauling in a ship while waist deep in surging seawater. The singing was powerful and the music brought the audience into the emotion. The film did not deviate from the stage play, and that was part of its charm. The singing throughout was strong with notable high points from Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Hugh Jackman was a powerful Valjean and Anne Hathaway teetered on the edge of melodrama as Fantine, but sang beautifully and carried the part really well. Gavroche and young Cosette were both fabulous, Gavroche, in particular carrying just the right amount of cheek and charm. The revolutionary young men were well acted and sang strongly. The film did translate the play well and the soaring music helped, as in the play, to draw the threads together. The acting was strong from nearly every actor.
The whole film was very good, but there were aspects that I liked less.
I have to mention Javert. Russell Crowe was able to sing, but not to carry the emotional burden of playing such an Old Testament character. He simply did not make the character show any feelings. This should be a character who is unyieldingly strong and righteous. He should crave justice almost as vengeance, but all he did was sing the lines with a rather dour look. The parts where he was meant to threaten Valjean’s existence rang hollow. It was difficult to form any belief that he was a determined man who haunted Valjean and pursued him. Although he was always there, he was just that.
On the other hand, Eddie Redmayne was a superb Marius. He was naively passionate about the revolution, fell madly in love at the first sight of Cosette and had a young man’s blinkered resistance to what was around him, namely Eponine. Samantha Barks’ Eponine was also brilliant, she sang as beautifully as she does on the stage and really made the viewer feel her plight. Helena Bonham Carter in the comic relief role of Mme Thenardier was excellent, but Sacha Baron Cohen as M. Thenardier was less strong. Maybe it’s just that after seeing Matt Lucas in the concert version no one can do it as well.
Overall, the stage play has translated well to film, but needed a defter touch in parts. Some camera work was disconcerting. Too many extreme close ups. Make up occasionally overdid the poor, starved peasants a bit too much and Valjean on his deathbed looked like he had conjunctivitis, but otherwise it was a good film. Given the sweep of the stage play it would be difficult to contain the story in a film of just over two and a half hours and it managed to take the audience on the journey of people caught in turbulent times and still to communicate Hugo’s plea for humanity.
Flawed in parts but still very worth watching.

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