Synopsis: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.
My thoughts: I think it's safe to say that waiting for this film was pretty agonizing, both for director Tom Hooper's recent successes in The King's Speech and the John Adams mini-series, for for the renown that this book/play/film has accumulated ever since Victor Hugo penned it, and for the well-known cast that has shown a different talent through viral trailers.
Because I don't know the full history of film adaptions, I won't be delving into the comparisons with such, but the history of the London (Queen's Theatre) play has been on the mind, since I took a trip there this spring to watch it performed live. It was an unforgettable experience, and while this adaption had a few pitfalls, it came close to that in many ways.
An inescapable topic is the singing. In the first scene, Crowe (Javert) and Jackman (Valjean) moved the words into odd tempos, and their voices sounded a bit shallow (Crowe's in particular). With the exception of a great (if short) sequence, "A Work", it was a poor opening on the musical front, and they tried to erase it from our memory by quickly distracting us with landscape shots. After that, both Crowe and Jackman got louder, bolder, and much more appreciable. Anne Hathaway as Fantine was amazing. She provided one of the three best song performances in "I Dreamed A Dream", which was very heartbreaking and hardening. Next up comes Young Cosette, who did very well with "Castle on a Cloud," and made viewers sorry that they didn't hear more from her. Helena Bonham Carter did respectably, I suppose, but Sacha Baron Cohen's not a singer, and "Master of the House" had to rely solely on the acting and humor. The real disappointment, though, was Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), in my opinion. While her voice may be very good in other circumstances, her shallow trill didn't do justice to the opera-level voices that Les Mis has seen in the past. Instead, I favored Samantha Barks (Éponine) in every way, including acting. Her "On My Own" was possibly my favorite song from the whole film, and definitely making the top three. Finally, there is Eddie Redmayne (Marius). He is definitely a talented actor I will be watching for. And, he's a marvelous singer, too! Very down to earth, and very loud and bold when he ought to be. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" also makes the top 3.
As usual, there were some problems I had with the edits. Here and there, lyrics were changed, removed, and even added, which disappointed me. The worst part, I think, is when they cut nearly the entirety of "Turning" after uttering only a few lines. I can only hope it will come out complete in the extended version.
**SPOILER ALERT** As my final point, for the whole movie, I'd been wondering how Hooper would portray Javert's suicide. I think he did it very well, and it was my favorite scene in the entire movie, for Crowe's great performance in it, the allusion from earlier in the film, the great scope and imager, and for Crowe's final song, in which he brings his best to the table. I had no idea he was as great a singer as he was at his character's final moments. **END SPOILER**
I would not suggest this movie for kids under 13, because they simply wouldn't understand a lot of the underlying themes that make this movie really important. Also, there is some suggestive, inappropriate material after Fontine is removed from the factory and resorts to the docks.
In conclusion, this is a large-scale, impressive adaption that is definitely worth seeing as soon as you can manage, even if you aren't a big fan of musicals.
My rating: 9 stars