LES MISÉRABLES: “The Vocals Here Are Superb”

LES MISHugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Eddie Redmayne as Marius
Samantha Barks as Éponine
Aaron Tveit as Enjolras
Sasha Baron Coen as Thénardier
Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thénardier
In theaters Christmas Day

I dreamed a dream in time gone by…

Prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean is released from prison after 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving family member. Jean Valjean breaks his parole and with the help of a kindly priest decides to start his life over anew, but over time he is relentlessly pursued by police Inspector Javert who is convinced that Jean Valjean cannot change and he should be put back behind bars forever. Across the years, as he is trying to stay out of Javert’s watchful eye, Jean Valjean becomes involved with a group of young students determined to make a stand to change the social injustices of the French government.

“Les Misérables,” the long awaited movie adaptation of the smash hit Broadway musical based on the Victor Hugo epic, is finally on screen. Fans of this musical, this world wide phenomenon, should find this presentation all encompassing. I have only seen the stage show once, and I enjoyed it very much as well as the music, but unlike some of my other theatre friends, I was not obsessed with it. I did not know the story very well at all, because I had never read the book in school and I had never seen a movie adaptation. Things were flying by very quickly and it was kind of hard for me to comprehend exactly all of what was going on. The movie makes up for all of that and presents the story clearly and precisely. The pacing is very smooth and the storytelling is very clear. You won’t have a problem keeping up with the story.

The vocals here are superb! Hugh Jackman brings all heart and soul to his portrayal of Jean Valjean, played originally in the Broadway cast by the fabulous Colm Wilkinson, who makes an appearance in the film as the priest who helps Jean Valjean begin a new life. Russell Crowe is absolutely stunning as the relentless Javert who dogs Valjean’s every step. His booming voice and commanding presence are just what the character calls for.

Fans of the film “Ella Enchanted” will not be surprised at Anne Hathaway’s vocals and the spirit she brings to the character of Fantine, a young woman who because of circumstance is forced into prostitution to pay for her child’s care.

Amanda Seyfried, who starred in the movie version of the musical “Mamma Mia” lends her gentile voice and surprising range to Cosette, Fantine’s teenage daughter.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen play the bawdy, thievish innkeepers, the Thénardiers. They previously starred in the movie version of the musical “Sweeny Todd:  The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.”

Samantha Barks reprises her role as Éponine from “Les Misérables: 25th Anniversary Concert.” Young award winning stage and screen actor Eddie Redmayne is passionate and sincere as Marius, the young man who falls for Cosette.

The film is presented just as it was in the stage show, in the sing-through style. There is very little or no spoken dialogue.  Every character’s scenes are mostly shot as a close-up, letting you see as well as feel all the emotion and the passion in their performances. And the performances are passionate; the actors trained and rehearsed extensively.  Jackman and Hathaway dieted and starved themselves to look their parts.  Hugh deprived himself of water for 36 hours to change his appearance for Valjean’s later years. Anne actually cut her hair. A bit of trivia: In the scene where Anne’s hair is cut, the person cutting it is actually her male stylist disguised as a woman.

Academy Award winning director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) has done a fabulous job of bringing this massive musical to the silver screen. And it is massive! This film has a run time of 160 minutes – that’s two hours and forty minutes, so be prepared for that.  Go to the bathroom before you get seated!  You won’t want to miss a minute. You will also probably need to bring a box of Kleenex. I’m not ashamed to say I cried like a baby in places.

I can finally say to all of my theater people out there who were so stoked on this show, I get it now! I totally get it!  I will be going back to see this film again and will be in line to buy it when it comes out on DVD.

5 out of 5 stars.

Check out the trailer for “Les Misérables” below:

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