Silver screen success for ‘Les Misérables’

By Megan Whalen
Correspondent

Ever since its Broadway opening in 1987, “Les Misérables” enormous fan base has yearned for a film adaptation of the epic musical. We have found our answer in Tom Hooper’s latest work.

The dream cast is lead by Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, a convict who escapes parole. Jackman is exceptional and his performance left me convinced that no other actor could have done quite as well as he in such a beloved role. If Jackman is the king of the film, Anne Hathaway is certainly the queen.

Exceeding my personal expectations of her acting and singing abilities, Hathaway blew me away with her interpretation of Fantine. “I Dreamed A Dream” left the audience reaching for tissues with raw and intense emotion ringing through every note.

The fact that her mother portrayed the character on Broadway in 1984 is even more of a testament to how seriously Hathaway took her interpretation of the role, and it pays off in a big way.

The ever-quirky Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen were standouts as the Thénardiers. The two have proven in past roles that they are masters at making unlovable characters somehow lovable, and their roles in this film are no exception.

Completely neglected in past film adaptations, Eponine Thenadier finally has her moment. The much-loved character is expertly portrayed by Samantha Barks, who has played the lovelorn Eponine on the London stage as well as in the 25th Anniversary production.

Her performance is at once a contrast to Hollywood techniques and a lovely companion to them as her freshness and green quality add to her performance.

However, it seems Hooper took some cues from past directors, who chose to cut the part. Eponine’s swan song, “A Little Fall of Rain” is trimmed down quite unnecessarily, which was a disappointment.

Despite its critical acclaim, which has earned it several Oscar nominations, the film has left critics with plenty to complain about. Instead of recording the songs and having actors lip-sync while filming, Hooper chose to have his actors sing live for every take.

Although risky, the live singing adds to the music’s depth and intense emotion. The songs become more about the emotion than the singing technique of the actors, which is fitting, as it would be strange for a character like Jean Valjean to suddenly break into operatic song whilst in an intense state of sadness.

And although Russell Crowe would have benefited from a few more voice lessons, Hooper’s risk seems to have paid off, as the cast members give startlingly emotional performances.

The transitions from speech to singing were often awkward and somewhat sloppily done throughout the movie. There is rarely any indication that a song is approaching until the actors are already immersed in it, which made for a kind of fumbling that did not do the film or the songs any favors.

However, any complaints are immediately overshadowed by the sheer epic quality of this film, which succeeds in maintaining “Les Misérables’” legacy of being at once utterly devastating and overpoweringly triumphant.

In a sea of film adaptations of the novel, which have been adequate at best, Hooper presents the musical “Les Miserables” in the epic, colorful way the story deserves. This moving, Oscar-worthy musical is an epic journey not to be missed.

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