To put the following words into context, here is a previous blog I wrote on screen musicals.
So I love musicals and I love the West End show of Les Mis but it’s not my favourite and I’m not like, hardcore, I’m about a six or seven on the Les Misercrazy scale. One being complete and utter disgust/indifference and ten being someone who goes to see it every week, without fail.
Following its eight Oscar nominations last week, I expect that its audience will include people who would otherwise not bother and I will be interested to hear what non-musical fans will think of it purely as a piece of cinema.
Director Tom Hooper’s much talked about decision to have the actors singing live on set instead of recording them afterwards, was a brave and bold one and the resulting effect is worth the effort. The fact that you can hear every breath and sob sung amongst the words really does add something to the power and intensity of the performances and creates a sense of realism and an overall more seamless quality in the narrative.
Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean is astonishing. I think it’s the best thing he’s done by far. He’s never had such screen presence, putting his heart and soul into a damaged and complex role; his eyes all the while burning with fear, regret and guilt and his vocal range as varied as his characters’ emotional one.
If Anne Hathaway wins the Academy Award I’d be perfectly happy. She’s fantastic and her rendition of I Dreamed A Dream is much better than in the trailer and is entirely close up, half sung, half cried and always with deep despair, as it should be. “But the tigers come at night” was the first point in the film that I had to hold back the tears and the goosebumps prickled around my neck. By the end of the film however, I’d given in to the inevitable sobbing and uncontrollable emotional shivers.
Russell Crowe as Javert really does try his best and after the kicking he seems to have had in the press it really wasn’t as bad as I’d have thought. The problem wasn’t so much the tone of his singing but more the pacing, he just doesn’t seem to know where to breath, but after his ludicrous turn as Robin Hood it was quite a good performance, honest and vulnerable. Poor chap.
I have found Eddie Redmayne to be a little wet until now, but his turn as Maruis was excellent, and I shall now join everyone else in adding him to my posh boy crush list (but still below Benedict Cumberbatch obviously).
There are of course some slightly jarring moments or times where the dated theatricality, remnants from the original show, take you out of the cinematic production. The prostitutes and street urchin Gavroche have stepped entirely off the stage and I do feel that they could’ve been more subtly adapted. Then there are the songs I will always find slightly dull even when performed with heartfelt gusto such as Bring Him Home, it’s just a little boring.
Yet, on the whole Les Miserables is amazing and I loved it. As well as being a cinematic spectacle, it’s as rousing and heartbreaking an experience as the stage show, even more so perhaps. Most of the songs are wonderful and have just as much impact as they’ve always had and being physically closer to the characters really does make a huge difference both in the detail and the emotional connection. But that’s the power of the camera, the power of film. I don’t think this will convert musical haters but I hope it introduces a few people to a truly great story and some good old fist in the air singalongs. Vive La France!