les misérables – less miserable than i thought

I saw Les Misérables with Melody and Robin, and their friends and family.  It’s Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel adapted in to a musical.  Using the French Revolution as a backdrop we follow Jean Valjean’s story of redemption.

The good; the songs are what make this musical.  Now we’re treated to the acting and emotion that goes with these songs.  It was amazing seeing the actors’… well, acting, which in the musical you can miss, because you aren’t up close.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway do an amazing job.

What I was hoping for, and the film accomplished, was to use the medium of celluloid to bridge gaps that the musical play passes over.  From the opening shot we’re underwater, it’s the ship yard where prisoner 24601 (Jean Valjean) is serving his sentence, we actually get to see the hard labor, he and his fellow inmates are pulling a ship in to some sort of dock, the hard labor and prison conditions are really felt.
Another example is when Javert meets Valjean, now a mayor, at his factory, I can see how he doesn’t recognize him, cause Valjean’s clean shaven and has hair, he looks completely different from the last time they saw eachother.  In the musical play Valjean looks the same, the film version makes this more believable.
One last example that the film succeeds more so than the musical film is the connective tissue with the lyric “Look Down,” starting from the Toulon Prison, the prisoners are singing “look down” as to avoid the gaze of their captors/guards, and then when the beggars sing “look down” to the upper class to remind them of the unequal living conditions that exist in their country… bravo film, bravo.  That sentiment is lost during the musical.

There are other examples where the film manages to connect scenes and transitions better than the musical, but they’re worth discovering when viewing the movie, so I won’t take them all away from everyone.

The bad; there are only two shots utilized in this film, the grand sweeping shots and the hand-held close up… why?  I really wanted more variety in their shot choices.  I understand the filmmakers wanting us to see the emotions from the actors, but I wanted some breathing room.  There were a couple of songs/scenes that the close up worked, but it wasn’t needed for every song.  The repetitious coverage of scenes got boring after a while.  I wanted to see the scenery, the locations, the sets. I wanted to be immersed in to the movie.

Russell Crowe, his singing is distracting.  And his Javert wasn’t as evil as he’s been in previous incarnations.  It could be due to the fact that he was concentrating on his singing more than his acting, he really could’ve been a menacing Javert, it’s a shame.

Overall, definitely worth watching, keep in mind that this is a musical.  The actors are going to sing everything, if you’re not aware of this, then what are you doing viewing this film?  So if you hate good songs, wonderful performances, and non-American struggles, definitely stay clear of Les Misérables.  My prediction, best picture nomination and costuming.


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