Film Review: Les Misérables

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, (dir.) Tom Hooper

Certificate: 12A (PG-13)

Rating: 9/10

Overall: Really, really good. An epic story loved by many, that will now find a new audience. The whole cast were superb, with Anne Hathaway being the standout.

Unless you live under a rock, you will know that Les Misérables is a beloved stage show, both on the West End and on Broadway, and the news of a big screen adaption probably struck fear in many a fan's heart.

If you are like me and had never seen the stage show, you probably went in knowing the signature songs such as I Dreamed A Dream and On My Own, but were lacking the context for them. So I was definitely interested in the story for the context if nothing else.

I think Les Mis, as those in the know like to call it ;), can definitely benefit from the scope of film. There is a lot more potential to tell the story with help from scenery, or with close-ups of faces that the stage can't. My mum, who saw Les Mis on the West End only a few months ago, said that she sometimes missed some of the words because it was too quiet. On film, this is much less of a problem, and my mum also said it helped her understand the plot better. I think this was particularly true of I Dreamed A Dream and during Fantine's death. I can imagine a lot of the subtlety could be lost on stage.

The cast were brilliant. Again, with film, the acting has perhaps a stronger role rather than the singing. They could have kitted out the film with someone who had had the role on stage. However, they may have had the voice but their acting may not work for the big screen. Having said that, Samantha Barks (Eponine) reprises her stage role in the film and is brilliant. She knows her part inside and out and it shows. Also she has the tiniest waist I've ever seen! Perhaps the weakest link, for me, was Russell Crowe. For some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, his voice didn't seem to match... him. I mean, he sang well enough, and his final scene was affecting, but something just didn't gel between him and his own voice.

Anne Hathaway was stunning. The hearsay I've been hearing about her in this film has been true. The transformation she undergoes as Fantine is heartbreaking.

The way they filmed it, letting the actors sing live on set, rather than the usual record then lip sync, makes me wonder why it has never been done like this before. It seems like the only way you could do a musical such as this, what with them singing everything, with very few lines of spoken dialogue. Hearing their voices break from the emotion of the scene just made it seem more real. Had the singing sounded perfect while the character was obviously crying wouldn't have had the same feeling behind it. It would have felt false. And this did not.

I think my favourite songs would have to be Do You Hear the People Sing? and Master of the House. Do You Hear the People Sing? makes you want to get up and start your own revolution, while Master of the House sang by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provided some light comic relief in the emotionally heavy plotlines. I keep getting them stuck in my head.

For a story where nearly every character dies, you come out of it feeling almost positive, raring to go defend your own barricade, and perhaps that's the point: Not every story needs to have the fairytale happy ending to be hopeful.

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