Les MisÚrables Reviews
It may not be the film for you, however, on the minimum, to me, the it's worth watching for Jackman's powerful yet possibly Oscar worthy portrayal.
I may be the only doubter on the radical approach that director Tom Hooper took, by having the actors sing live to camera, but the tuneful songs are mostly undermined by screeching and Russell Crowe's vocal limitations. Though this approach works nicely for Ann Hathaway's Oscar moment in the sun, 'I Dreamed a Dream' which is an intimate song of despair, it mostly doesn't work for the rest of the musical material. It particularly does Hugh Jackman, a terrific singer normally, a disservice, where he shrieks unpleasantly much of the time, as his character is in pain for all three of the film's hours.
The entire cast, including Crowe (singing aside), acquit themselves admirably for the most part and are well cast. Though Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter's Thenardiers are very over the top in the baggy pants vaudeville of their comic relief, they are a welcome break from the earnest howling and gushing tears. Hathaway, who has no much more than twenty minutes screen time, deserved her Oscar, and Jackman pulls off noble and selfless as well as anyone out there, vocal screeches aside.
The film looks great from a production design point of view, but I hate how it was shot by Hooper, with way too many closeups and needless jerky handheld camera. I imagine he thought he was updating the creaky movie musical style for the new millennium, but it failed, at least here.
The songs are melodic in the spirit of Oliver!, but the lyrics are unsubtle and 'on the nose' and always were. So is the film style. This is one instance where I think the director needed to take a different approach from the source material, rather than being too faithful. For example it didn't have to be 'sung through', there could have been some spoken dialogue, giving the songs more weight. There also could have been a more intimate approach with some scenes, and the chorus numbers were awkwardly staged for realism, which is impossible, it might have been better if they stood and delivered to the movie audience and broken the 'third wall'. I realize Hooper did not want to alienate the devoted fans.
Still, it's worthwhile and interesting to see the approach that was taken to put this beloved musical on film, there's a lot of talent here. Les Miserables can be effective if you put your helmet on to prevent the whole thing beating you over the head with its bombastic style and take it for the overly rich, often nausea inducing French pastry that it is.
Tom Hooper achieved a great feat with the live-singing. The performances are indeed rawer and more visceral than the glamorous belting of Broadway. My boy Hugh Jackman captures Valjean's repentence and compassion. He is a great singer, but I didn't think he was exceptional, probably because the character has so many songs that by the end, the performance felt repetitive.
Anne Hathaway will melt your face off in "I Dreamed a Dream." She even acts through the instrumentals. I take a bit of pride in knowing she could sing ever since I saw "Ella Enchanted." Her acting in the non-singing scenes is a little frantic and melodramatic, but that one song is award-worthy in itself.
I really dig Eddie Redmayne as Marius. He's got this ugly-sexy face and Kermitty singing voice that makes a somewhat one-dimensional character less of a pretty-boy ponce. "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables" is blisteringly painful, if a bit deja vu-ey after so many "raw and visceral" interpretations. Aaron Tveit has a magnificent voice, and I have come to really just like the role of Enjolras.
Samantha Barks (of the 25th Anniversary Concert, so you pretty much already know she can belt) is beautiful and full of longing, but she only has a handful facial expressions - all good, just lacking in variety. I'm not a fan of Amanda Seyfried, but she does what she can with the boringest character. I found her soprano a bit tinny though. And well, Russell Crowe. He can carry a tune...but not very far. He sings too much in his mouth instead of in his throat and diaphragm.