This will not be a fair and honest review, nor ever could it have been coming from me… So I will start by saying if you want to read a spoiler free review for Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Miserables them go somewhere else and come back here after you have seen it.
Let me be completely open… I have loved Les Miserables the musical ever since I got the Two Cassette version of the London Cast recording sometime back in the mid 80s. I have seen it on stage in Edinburgh, London (2 different theatres) and Shellharbour, I watched the DVD of the original Albert Hall concert and the more recent celebration concert and have loved it each and every time. In fact I am a ‘Les Mis’ junkie, hence why this was never going to be a fair review!
I am sat at my computer with a much needed cup of tea, as I am dehydrated to hell after crying my eyes out for the last 10 minutes of this wonderful film and sobbing through the credits. I love Cinema and it is one of few things that truly tugs at my heart. I am only glad that I broke down at the end, as Cate Blanchett’s opening monologue at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring made me cry so hard I think I missed half of Hobbiton on my first watch!
So where to start? This is a great adaptation and as with all ‘Something to Movie’ conversions there will be purists who scream about changes. Well to Hell with them! The changes between stage and screen work just fine thanks, both in setting and scoring and I can’t complain one iota about them. This film is visually gritty. as it should be, and yet as with Hooper’s previous film (The King’s Speech) when called upon to show vistas of historical scenes any use of CGI is unnoticeable and the feel of early 19th Century Revolutionary France is real and grimy.
I could go on about sets and costume, but they don’t matter as they were just fine… What matters are the performances of the cast and this is where I am surprised at my feelings.
Any fears I had about Anne Hathaway as the cursed Fantine were blown away. She was stunningly brilliant and when she started to sing the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. She broke my heart on multiple occasions with both her acting and singing. Bravo Madam! I hope you do win an Oscar because in my mind you will struggle to perform better in any future role!
Unfortunately my other fear about Russell Crowe as Javert was realised. Yes he can sing but he sounds like he smokes 50 a day and has done all his life. He is up there with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon or Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera for strange casting choices in musical conversions. However! He was great! No seriously, whilst he didn’t quite belt out ‘Stars’ like the song deserves, he played Javert with just enough menace and later pathos as the role demands and I would say this is some of his finest Post-Gladiator work. Plus he truly does go out with a Crunch!
Next on my hit list are Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks as Marius and Eponine. I’ve seen neither of them in anything dramatic before although I vaguely remember her in the BBC’s ‘I’d Do Anything’ search for a Nancy, in which she came 3rd. Well my friends you were both excellent! In fact Eddie (I can call you Eddie right?) you are the best Marius I have seen (sorry Michael Ball) and Sam (I can call you Sam right?) you are second only to Lea Salonga as Eponine! Their duet when Eponine dies had me shaking with sadness. Again Bravo!
I was a little bit disappointed with Aaron Tveit as Enjolras. His character is meant to be a charismatic god and he just lacked a certain edge for me and similarly Amanda Seyfried as Cosette appeared to have swallowed her vibrator as she had a bad case of the squeaky wobbles!
Anyway back to the good. Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen played the Thenardiers perfectly and added comedy and menace in equal proportions. Along side them were Daniel Huttlestone and Isabelle Allen who are far too talented for kids of their age. Huttlestone in particular as Gavroche was channeling some of the finest Artful Dodgers the world has ever seen! All I can say is there are some Proud Parents out there!
‘Hang On!’ I hear you cry… ‘What about Hugh?’ Yeah OK I have been leaving the best until last… Or have I? You see… Hugh Jackman WAS brilliant as Jean Valjean… He was my #1 pick for the role long before I heard there was a movie… and with that comes my problem… He didn’t quite meet my expectations!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t know what has happened since I saw him as Curly in the 1998 West End revival of ‘Oklahoma!’ but somewhere along the way he seems to have lost two cotton balls up his nose! There was a nasally edge to his voice that I just didn’t like. He was great when singing with others, but when isolated either in soliloquy or big number I had the irresistible urge to pass him some decongestant! I am being unfair! He was stunning, but not quite as stunning as I hoped!
So in summary of course I loved this film. It will be in my Blu-ray collection as soon as Amazon dispatches it to me and I may buy two copies in case I wear one out. Oh and Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, to Tom Hooper for giving a small role to Colm Wilkinson. He was, is and always will be Jean Valjean in my heart and soul and for him to have a small part in this movie just made me cry that little bit harder!