Les Miserables, directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), is a 150-minute motion picture event that will take you on a ride through Paris during the French Revolution. The story follows Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman. Valjean is forced into 19 years of servitude after stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. When he is finally released, he breaks his parole and is relentlessly pursued by Inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe. Valjean’s evasion of Javert leads him to meet Fantine, portrayed by Anne Hathaway, a down-on-her-luck worker who is struggling to support her daughter Cosette, played by Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried. When Fantine passes away, Valjean swears to raise Cosette as his own and protect her at all costs.
There are many aspects of this movie that blew me away. Primarily, it was a visual masterpiece. Viewers will be treated to stunning scenery from the French countryside to the heart of Paris. Grand spectacles and small details are all depicted to perfection. On top of being incredibly aesthetically pleasing, Les Miserables will also please any audiophile. Hooper made the bold decision to have all the singing done live on set as opposed to pre-recorded in a studio. This greatly enhances the quality of the acting during songs.
For most musicals, acting decisions have to be made months before the movie is filmed during recording sessions. However, the actors in Les Miserables are able to feel the pure emotion of the music and act in the moment. This yields wonderful results, as the vocal and acting performances of the cast are nothing short of spectacular. Anne Hathaway’s rendition of the iconic song “I Dreamed a Dream” was chilling and left me on the brink of tears. Hugh Jackman delivers an award nomination worthy performance portraying Jean Valjean’s spiritual transformation throughout the movie. However, not everyone on the cast delivers an amazing performance.
The one issue I have with Les Miserables is Russell Crowe. Crowe, not known for his singing, delivers a very weak vocal performance. He manages to sound autotuned despite singing all of his songs live. Even though Crowe isn’t necessarily a singer, I expected him to redeem the role of Javert by delivering a strong acting performance. Unfortunately, he came up short of my expectations and delivered the weakest acting in the film.
However, this might not have been entirely Crowe’s fault. The entire character of Javert was mismanaged by Hooper. Javert is constantly stoic. He never shows an ounce of emotion throughout the movie. Hooper also fails to create a powerful parallel between Valjean and Javert. The two leads are meant to be foil characters. They are both bound by a powerful devotion to God, but their devotion takes them in opposite directions. Valjean promises God that he will care for Cosette, which requires him fleeing from Javert, while Javert promises God that he will capture Valjean. This parallel isn’t captured, and it leaves the movie lacking its most compelling dynamic.
Though it was not perfect, Les Misérables is still a great film that is definitely worth seeing. ⅘ stars.