Les Miserables
Director: Tom Hooper
Writers: Claude-Michel Schonberg (book), Alain Boublil (book), Victor Hugo (novel), Herbert Kretzmer (lyrics), Alain Boublil (original: French text), Jean-Marc Natel (original: French text), James Fenton (additional text), William Nicholson (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, Daniel Huttlestone, Colm Wilkinson

Disclosure: I’ve never seen the musical verison of Les Miserables before, although I’m familiar with the story. I went to see it with several people, one of whom has seen it numerous times, and listens to the various soundtrack recordings. The following is a conglomeration of our thoughts.

The translation from stage to screen went fairly well and the overall experience was very enjoyable.

The notable thing about this version is that the actors sang every take, allowing them the freedom to act as they sang. This also made it much easier to understand the lyrics (according to my Les Mis expert). But–they not only drove this point home in the advertising for the film, the director spent far too much time in close-up on the actors mouths (“Look–they’re singing. Live!”). The result left all of us wanting more scenes that showed people singing together, and that showed the staging (which seemed to be good). We wanted to see the scenery and the costumes.

They picked a cast that could sing, most especially Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, with Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, and Amanda Seyfried a whisper behind. They all did a great job of acting/emoting while singing, and were amazing to listen to. Russell Crowe was the weakest voice of the bunch, but his role primarily required him to be stiff and by-the-book, so his performance worked, too.

In a number of places, Hooper used walking into sunlight to symbolize hope, and it was really effective.

Among the supporting players, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are deliciously evil as the Thenardiers, Samantha Barks is wonderfully tragic as Eponine, and Daniel Huttlestone steals the show as Gavroche. My Les Mis expert spotted Colm Wilkinson as the bishop–he was the original Jean Valjean on Broadway.

The makeup on Hugh Jackman was very well done. He started out as an emaciated convict, then was turned into a gradually aging gentleman.

This movie takes you on a definite emotional journey. It’s a heavy ride, but well worth the trip.

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