Posted by: ckckred | January 3, 2013

Les Miserables

Tom Hooper's big budget musical

Tom Hooper’s big budget musical

Before I begin my review, let me make note that I am not a fan of musicals.  It’s not that I dislike every one.  There are plenty of musicals that I like, from classics like The Wizard of Oz and Fiddler on the Roof to satires like South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut and Little Shop of Horrors.  But there are also plenty of them that I don’t enjoy at all.  I’m not overly keen on films like Chicago, West Side Story, and Grease.  So I wasn’t exactly expecting to see Les Miserables until I read positive reviews from many bloggers whose opinions I respect.  I decided to give it a go then and entered with an open mind.

I liked Les Miserables more than I thought I would, though I had fairly low expectations.  After about a day, I appreciated the film much more than I did when I came out of the theater.  I cannot deny that I thought it was a good film.  But I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else did.  In a way, I almost feel bad that I didn’t, since there are many great things about the movie.

But let me digress.  Les Miserables is about Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who has just finished a nineteen year sentence under prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) for stealing a loaf of bread.  He then is released on parole but after meeting with a catholic priest, he runs away and vows to become a honest man.  Eight years later he has changed his identity and becomes the owner of a factory, and soon discovers that one of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), has been fired after the foreman discovers she has an illegitimate child named Cosette (Isabelle Allen as a young girl, Amanda Seyfried as the older version).  Fantine soon turns to prostitution, and after being abused by one of her customers is nearly arrested by Javert, now a police inspector, but Valjean takes her to the hospital and vows to take care of her daughter.  Javert soon discovers that the factory owner is Valjean, but Valjean escapes and enters Paris.  Nine years later, revolution is approaching, and soon both Valjean and Cosette are intertwined in it.

As you can tell from my lengthy plot description, the movie is quite long (I don’t even go into full detail about the ending).  In fact, it reminded me of those old Hollywood epics from the 50s and 60s.  The production values are very high (the budget was $61 million), and the sets and costumes are all very elaborate.

The movie’s greatest strength is undoubtedly the acting.  I heard that the actors sang on camera instead of dubbing it later, mostly because just about every line is sung, and it actually works surprisingly well.  I’ve got to admit I would be very surprised if Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway don’t receive Oscar nominations.  I knew that Jackman had been in musicals before this and he does well, but I was really surprised to discover that Crowe actually has a pretty good singing voice.  Hathaway’s performance is the highlight of the movie, even though she’s only in about 15 minutes, and is pretty involved into her role.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter play a thieving couple who act as the film’s comic relief and they are strong as well.

But what kept me from loving the movie was director Tom Hooper.  I’m not just saying this because I hold a grudge against him for winning Best Director over David Fincher.  It’s just that I find him an unexperienced filmmaker.  Like with both John Adams and The King’s Speech, I couldn’t really find myself loving the film.  While he does make his actors give great performances, he awkwardly films the movie, which contains many slanted camera angles and cuts that don’t fit in.  It was very distracting for me, and really prevented me from getting emotionally involved in the story (I was the only one in the audience who wasn’t crying).

Still, I had to admit the movie is very impressive.  I don’t think Les Miserables is one of the best films of the year, but it’s a good one.  I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t enjoy it but also would be lying if I said I loved it.


  1. I loved the movie. It was interesting that it followed the theatre version almost exactly. Great to see an entirely different type of movie. I hope it wins lots of awards.

  2. I kind of agree with your assessment. Some very strong performances here, but doesn’t bump anything out of my top 5. Would be pleased to see Hathaway win some awards for it though. Thanks for liking my review!

    • No problem. Yeah, the performances were great but I felt the direction hurt it. I’d like to see Hathaway get some attention too. Thanks for commenting.

  3. The way he framed it gave the film an intimacy with the actors. It was powerful on an emotional level. It was a bold decision and I thought it paid off.

    • Yeah, the performances were pretty powerful. I usually don’t cry much in movies (though I was a mess at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild), but it did really grip me. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Excellent review, it is certainly getting a lot of attention at the moment.

    • Yeah it is. I think it’s just worth seeing for the art direction. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Solid review. Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the smash 1985 musical is a beautifully gritty look at grace, poverty, redemption, and virtually every other human emotion in between.

    • Yeah, it was very gritty at looking at social classes. It was a very epic film. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I am so excited to see this. I don’t know much about the director but I’m a huge fan of musicals and while Les Mis isn’t my favorite I grew up around it. Totally impressed with the live singing – apparently Anne Hathaway called her performance merely eh. Hard to believe from what I hear.

    • Anne Hathaway gives one of the most committed performances I’ve seen this year. I hope you like it. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Great review. I like the honest thoughts on Hooper your bring to the table. I don’t think that Crowe will receive any Oscar nod for this though.

    Agree that it is a good movie, and not a best picture of 2012. Curious, what is the worst musical you ever watched?

    • Thanks! Yeah, this wouldn’t be on my top 10 list, but I did enjoy it. I don’t watch many musicals, but I’d say my least favorite is Chicago.

  8. I’m actually glad The King’s Speech won last year, but that doesn’t mean I’d automatically LOVE this movie. I’m very curious to see this, just a matter of finding the time to see it. Glad to see you like this one somewhat.

    • I liked The King’s Speech but I would have preferred seeing The Social Network win. It’s a pretty long movie and stretches to nearly three hours but moves fairly quickly. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks for commenting.

  9. I have never been one for musicals, I find them predictable and often more cheesy than a fondue set. However, I went to see Les Misérables with an open mind and from the get go I knew it was gonna be a different experience. I found it to be a bold and fresh take on the genre,offering some real, courageous simply stunning performances but I do agree with you on Hoopers directorial techniques. They often force you to disconnect with the drama and its characters. Great review was always.

    Here is mine if you get time;

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