If it wasn’t clear before, I’m a fan of musicals. Be they theater or movie adaptions, there’s something so emotional and fun about musicals to me. Les Miserables is one I’ve wanted to see in theater, but still have yet to experience. So, as a sort of compensation and some convincing by my boyfriend (who adores the musical), I watched last year’s film adaption. Bear in mind that I’m basing this review purely on the movie and the story as it was explained to me previously by him. Speaking of the story, I won’t be going into that this time around because, well, it’s pretty complicated with multiple characters/storylines that intertwine.
That said, I thought the cast all around was great. Hugh Jackman is one of my favorite actors in existence right now, and I thought he brought good singing and a lot of emotion to the part of lead character Jean Valjean. The supporting cast around him was, for the most part, solid and had strong singing voices as well. I had gripes with three actors, however. First would be Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers, the comic relief of the musical. While I admire Sacha for trying to keep a French accent while he sang, I thought both were a little flat save for a couple quick and funny reactions. The third is the one everyone’s criticized, Russell Crowe. Now, the man’s a fine actor and he tries his best with hitting the notes. The problem is that there’s not nearly enough if any emotion to his verses. I don’t feel he was completely awful, but he was definitely the weakest link as far as singing talent.
I felt the story was fairly easy to follow as well, considering the length of the book it’s adapted from. The movie’s 3 hours long, and there were times where the pacing seemed a teeny, tiny bit slow. But, overall, I felt it did a great job keeping my attention and interest. I’m aware the songs were filmed live and it does show at times, sounding a little unpolished here and there. But they still left an emotional impact on me and that besides entertainment value is what I look for most in musical songs. My favorite will forever be “One Day More,” though, because as a cap-off to Act 1 it packs a powerful punch.
The production values were strong as well. Even though most of my time was spent focusing on the acting/singing and story, I didn’t once feel like I was looking at a set or computer graphics (if there were any). The environments were gritty where appropriate and fit the style of the 1800s. My only minor complaint is that, as years pass within the film, a few characters don’t look like they’ve aged a day. Maybe it was a budget thing, but it didn’t really bother me either way.
“Les Miserables” has a powerful story and is a good film adaption. I feel that I’d enjoy the theater version even more, but this was a good introduction for me to the story. I would gladly revisit this musical in the future. As for the 2012 film, I give it a solid 8.5/10.