Boublil and Schonberg’s Les Misérables is one of the more epic pieces of musical theatre, and Tom Hooper’s film adaptation further proves this. This is Les Misérables on a grand scale, full of heart and soul.
It’s led by emotion and Hooper has absolutely kept this at the forefront of his adaptation. With the belief that the actors should sing and act live on set for each take, he has created understated and camera-real performances that beautifully mix the world of musical theatre and film to create something new; you find yourself watching a more exposed and open performance lacking the veneer that is often present on the stage (where pieces need to be bigger so that they are seen by the full audience). This is not a film that just has characters breaking out into song but rather melds the songs into its world so that it is much more believable for the viewer. (Lovers of the stage musical will however be surprised to find that dialogue has been added to the piece.) Hooper has created something that is visually stunning but also connects you to the very real emotion and human core of the piece.
Boublil and Schonberg’s score is, as ever, sumptuously beautiful and is further able to wrap around the viewer thanks to the visual delights that Hooper sets up. Avid fans of the musical will notice cuts and there have been some additions, including a new song for Valjean that is rather peculiar and doesn’t fit with the rest of the piece musically. However, this is a score that you are unable to escape and overall it can only pull you further into the characters’ world.
Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Valjean is simply astounding, and h is comfortable in both film and musical theatre. Jackman gives a masterclass in acting through song in this film and his Valjean can only be described as breathtaking. If Jackman doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination for this role then he has been cheated.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Eddie Redmayne’s Marius (an extremely strong performance that makes the character utterly lovable), Aaron Tveit’s Enjorlas (who is strong and resolute), George Blagden’s unbelievably charismatic Grantaire, Sacha Baron Cohen’s hilarious Thénardier, Daniel Huttlestone’s scene-stealing Gavroche, and I was very pleasantly surprised by Anne Hathaway’s Fantine (‘I Dreamed A Dream’ is heart-breaking and beautifully performed). All together, this is a strong cast and it is so lovely to see many West End performers pop up throughout (as well as original cast members Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle).
The all-star casting did unfortunately have its negatives, with Russell Crowe portraying a stoic and unemotive Javert. There is so much to be played from Javert and Valjean’s relationship, and with Jackman giving such an incredible performance it’s a shame to see some of it wasted on the pairing with Crowe, whose face seems to hardly move in the film. Vocals and technique can be forgiven in this film, as often the acting is so emotive, but Crowe seems to neither fully commit himself to the acting or to be able to sing the role. It’s a shame but, luckily, it is very easy to forget his performance with so much else going on.
I was also sad to see the character of Eponine, played by Samantha Barks, slightly fade into the background in this adaptation. Barks did a good job with the role, having played it in both the West End cast and in the 25th Anniversary production at the O2, but unfortunately it was far to easy to forget her and her storyline.
This adaptation brings Boublil and Schonberg’s Les Misérables to a more mainstream sphere, and it does so beautifully. With stunning visuals, several superb performances and scenes that are guaranteed to melt a heart of ice, Tom Hooper has created something very special.
Les Misérables will be released in UK cinemas on the 11January, 2013. For more information, see the official Les Miserable movie website.