There are those who say Les Miserables is well-named, and in fairness, it’s not the most cheerful of films – but it’s certainly not all sung on one mournful note either.
The story can be summed up as: a slave is freed, goes on the run, changes identity and becomes mayor, fails to help factory girl who becomes a prostitute then dies, takes in her daughter who grows up and falls in love with a revolutionary, there’s lots of singing and (nearly) everybody dies.
But it’s so much more than that.
I’ve never seen the stage show, but knew the basic story and, as it turns out, most of the songs. But like all good stage shows, the film lives or dies by its cast.
I’m a huge fan of Hugh Jackman, and unlike most people, own not just the film version of Oklahoma! but also a copy of the soundtrack, so I was used to Jackman singing.
He began his career in musical theatre and a live-action big-budget film version of Les Mis is surely the role he’s been waiting for.
Director Tom Hooper has said he wouldn’t have made the film without Hugh Jackman and I’m inclined to think it wouldn’t have worked without the versatile Aussie actor – not just for his voice (amazing) but for his physical presence which literally fills the screen as the central character.
But it’s not just the Hugh Jackman show, absolutely everybody is excellent in this film, from Anne Hathaway, to Eddie Redmayne to young Daniel Huttlestone. Even those with the most minor parts excel. A slight quibble would be that Russell Crowe’s voice is surprisingly sweet and doesn’t match up to Jackman’s power, but his inspector Javert is still a good foil for Jackman’s Jean Valjean.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are perfect comic relief and Samantha Barks more than matches the A list stars she’s surrounded by as Éponine.
Having the cast sing live does make you feel like you’re watching a stage show and I wanted to clap after every song (I restrained myself as it was a quiet screening.)
And although I didn’t cry, I came very close on several occasions and wanted to cheer the finale.
Les Mis will probably be largely over looked at the Oscars due to Lincoln and to me that’s a travesty because this is a unique piece of film making and an absolute triumph.
In short, I loved it.