Les Misérables (2012)

les miserables poster 2012 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good attempt to bring the big screen musical to the screen

Miscast Russell Crowe, attempt at more realism took away from the music

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Les Misérables

Studio:  Universal Pictures/Working Title Films/Cameron Mackintosh Ltd.

Genre(s):  Musical/Drama

Release Date(s):  December 5, 2012 (Premiere)/December 25, 2012 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

les miserables jean valjean hugh jackman

…it wasn’t even very good bread…dammit

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), Prisoner #24601, is released after nineteen years of captivity.  When he steals silver from a church, Valjean takes a vow to change his ways.  Becoming a mayor of a city and doggedly pursued by officer Javert (Russell Crowe), Jean Valjean inadvertently causes one of his employees named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to be fired…leaving her destroyed and destitute.  Remembering his pledge, Valjean flees to Paris with the daughter of Fantine named Cosette (Isabelle Allen).  As the years pass, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) grows without knowledge of her past, but the past comes back to haunt Valjean.  A revolution is growing in France, and the past cannot stay hidden forever!

Directed by Tom Hooper, Les Misérables is a musical drama.  The film is an adaptation of the popular Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg 1985 musical based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo.  The movie was met with mostly positive reviews and received Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Hathaway), Best Sound Mixing, and Best Make-Up and Hair with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jackman), Best Original Song (“Suddenly”), Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

les miserables thenardiers helena bonham carter sacha baron cohen

I could make up some of the worst pies in London if you want

I am a big fan of Les Misérables.  I have read the Hugo novel, seen other versions of the story, and seen the musical.  When the 1998 version was released, I kind of wonder why they didn’t just adapt the stage production (though musicals were out of favor at that time).  When it was decided to do the film version of the movie, I had to approach it with reservations and hope due to the density of the book and story.

The movie for the most part works out, but even like a stage version, there are weaknesses.  The book’s structure is notoriously difficult.  Often abridged, the 1000+ page novel has an opening that just lays out the history of France and leads to the priest (who in this film version is played by the original Broadway Jean Valjean Colm Wilkinson)…this causes a bit of disjointed story at the beginning of the film which doesn’t have much flow.  In addition to that, you have to adjust to fact that the movie is essentially an opera with all characters singing all the time.  With some minor changes to the musical (including a thankfully shortened “Little People” song sung by Gavroche played by Daniel Huttlestone is one of the victims…I just never thought it fit stylistically).

les miserables javert russell crowe stars singing

Singing…I am singing…singing on a rooftop…

The casting is a mixed bag.  Hugh Jackman is known for stage and though not the best Jean Valjean, he does a strong job with it.  I’m normally not a Anne Hathaway fan but she does give a lot of dimension to Fantine and does a good job bringing the small role to life (which is weirdly boosted for marketing purposes).  The former Sweeney Todd costars Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are fine as the Thénardiers, though I don’t feel they look the part necessarily, but they do provide some much needed comic relief for a rather heavy film.  Russell Crowe was a miscast and looks very uncomfortable during the singing sequences while both Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne are decent (but sappy) Cosette and Marius.  The most likable Eponine is performed well by Samantha Barks who portrayed the character on stage as well.

les miserables fantine jean valjean anne hathaway hugh jackman ending

Fantine…I didn’t even really know you

The problem with the musical is how it was adapted by Tom Hooper.  It goes for a much more naturalistic approach to the performances and how they are sung…which leads to some awkward “are they singing or just talking in a singing voice” moments.  While this does fit with the opera aspect, it kind of degrades a lot of the songs which feel have been performed much better in other adaptations of the musical.

Les Misérables is a tough book and both the musical and this movie do a good job trying to bring the massive story to life and still make it meaningful.  The ending of the story gets a bit garbled and sometimes the melodrama gets in the way, but for the most part, Les Misérables works…but if you have the option just stick with the stage performance.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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