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Les Miserables – Review

January 20, 2013

Les Mis poster

Last night, after much anticipation, I finally saw Les Misérables at the cinema. I know this is a cardinal sin, but my knowledge of Les Mis is very limited – obviously I’m aware of it as a musical phenomenon and the songs are simply iconic, but I knew very little of the storyline (except that it’s set it revolutionary France) and characters before I saw the film.

This film features a cast of A-Listers that at a first glance, I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged as being singers. Hugh Jackman, in my mind, will forever be Wolverine, so it was really weird to see him singing, and doing it well. Russell Crowe on the other hand is one of those actors that seems to be quite versatile (although what he does best is medieval and earlier soldier types) but as a singer, I just wasn’t feeling it. Good on him for trying though. I was amazed at some of the incredibly high notes that Amanda Seyfried hit. I’m sure I’ve seen her sing a bit in other roles she’s done, but I was in awe of her portrayal of Cosette. Eddie Redmayne is one of those actors that, it seems, can do no wrong. Not least because he is exceptionally good looking. I’ve seen him in a few things (LOVED him in the BBC’s Birdsong last year) and he seems to be a very versatile guy with a great voice and a lot of talent. I was really pleased to see him take such a major role in Les Mis. I was also glad to see Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen making an appearance. They both proved their worth as musical actors in Sweeney Todd and I loved their portrayals of their respective parts.

Now, I couldn’t talk about the casting without mentioning Anne Hathaway’s Fantine. “I Dreamed a Dream” is (to me at least) by far the most iconic song from Les Mis, miserable though it is, and Hathaway not only does it justice, she makes it sensational. It’s such an emotional rendition I’m not sure how I managed to keep dry eyes. However, I couldn’t believe the lengths she went to for the part. When I heard that she’d cut her beautiful long hair into a short pixie cut as a result of playing Fantine, I fully expected her to be taking a major role and was really surprised at how little her character appeared in the film. That’s pure dedication for you.

Plotwise, Les Mis left me feeling a little bit flat. I knew to expect it to be 99% singing, and that’s fine. I love a good musical as much as the next girl. But, after all the hype around the film and all the awards it’s nominated for (and winning), the epic-ness didn’t quite shine through for me. The musical is set in revolutionary France. Not in the 1790s as I originally thought, granted, but revolutionary France nonetheless. It could have been much more dramatic and passionate, but perhaps that would have detracted from the music. I also found that it ended rather abruptly. The final number, where all the characters (except Cosette and Marius) are atop an enormous barricade, should have been beyond epic. It should have made me want to stand up and applaud. And while the music, as it had all the way through, set my spine to tingling, I just didn’t feel like it was of the same epic proportions as the finales of other musicals I’ve seen.

Overall, though, I loved Les Mis. The music, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day, absolutely blew my mind. My spine was tingling through every big number from beginning to end. I’m really glad I went to see it at the cinema instead of waiting for the DVD/Blu Ray experience as I sometimes do. A normal TV just doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the big screen and the surround sound at the cinema. If you’re not put off by a film that has no dialogue and is all singing, then I would definitely recommend Les Mis to anyone.

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