I think a lot of people are going to see different things in Les Misérables, depending on their biases towards film. That’s just the way it is. For example, a lot of people dislike musicals in general. I am certainly open to them, but I’m one of those people. A lot of people have praised the acting performances in the film, and I’m in full agreement. A lot of people just cannot stand Tom Hooper and his transparent pandering to the Academy, and I’m firmly a member of that camp.
So no, I didn’t like the film, but let’s get into this anyway.
Les Misérables is based on a musical which is based on the Victor Hugo novel. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released by Javert (Russell Crowe) to parole from his prison sentence. No town will let him work, so he eventually breaks parole and becomes the mayor of Montreuil as well as a factory worker. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), is fired for secretly sending money to her daughter. Fantine becomes a prostitute, sings “I Dreamed a Dream” (in epic fashion), and then dies without explanation, soon after Valjean agrees to raise her child. The film spans 17 years of historical drama, romance, song, and some generally unforgivable attempts at comedy by Sacha Baron Cohen (of whom I’m a big fan).
There’s another completely unexplained death thrown in later that I won’t spoil. Les Misérables‘s musical numbers are all recorded live. Anne Hathaway is excellent in all aspects, and seems just as certain to take home an Oscar as everyone has said she is. I really liked the cast as a whole. I could’ve done without Russell Crowe, just as everyone else has said. I also could’ve done without the ridiculous number of close-ups. And Tom Hooper, for that matter, although there are a handful of beautiful shots sprinkled in.
The film is very long and melodramatic. Maybe I’m not best suited for reviewing musicals, but I was very bored about 45 minutes in. I knew that about 98% of the film was going to be sung, and I was interested in seeing how that would turn out. The results weren’t good. Maybe I’ll appreciate musicals more in the future, as they generally break into song on occasion in order to break up the redundancy of spoken word. Les Misérables seemed to relish its monotony. I’ll watch and review all of the Best Picture nominees for you, so you can pass on this one.