Tom Hooper has not made a great film since The King’s Speech. So now I’ve said it. This adaptation of the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and a handful of other movie stars. The stage adaptation of Les Miserables is one of the better rock operas in existence, and a movie version sounds like a great idea and almost bound to be great. But with a confusing cast and a weird focus on the love triangle rather than the societal inequality that haunted France. The film is visually pleasing but the soundtrack is weak and disgraceful.
The film follows Hugh Jackman as the heroic and noble Jean Valjean. Jackman’s acting is on-point and dramatic and makes the otherwise boring character of Valjean into a decently more interesting and enthralling character. Jackman’s singing however is not as strong as it probably should have been, as his vibrato was a little too dramatic and his voice faltered in the higher notes. “Bring Him Home” was also sung mostly in chest voice leading to an awkward moment of belting an otherwise soft song. Russell Crowe plays the interesting and torn character of Inspector Javert, and although Crowe acts the role alright, there is nothing to excuse his awkward and painful singing. Crowe’s singing is croaky and much more folk-style than rock or opera or musical theatre or any other genre that would be acceptable. Anne Hathaway plays the tragic character of Fantine in a very stunning and emotional take on “I Dreamed a Dream”. Hathaway’s singing is also some of the strongest singing shown off in the film, and as the song is normally song a little softer, this was an interesting take on the song that worked very well.
Amanda Seyfried plays the golden girl character of Cosette and plays this boring role just as well as the character could be played, and her clear and soft voice works well in the character too. Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy, the wealthy revolutionary, offers a couple sweet acting moments but his awkwardly operatic voice matches very poorly with Seyfried’s and doesn’t do too well on its own either. Aaron Tveit, the golden boy of Broadway, plays the most interesting character in this film, Enjolras, the leader of student revolution. Tveit’s singing, though brief, is powerful and strong and shows that there is a reason why he’s such a prominent musical theatre actor. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter play the two bumbling Thenardiers who are very much similar to the two actors’ many previous roles. Samantha Barks also has a role in the film as Eponine, and plays the part very well, but the true beauty to her portrayal is her beautiful voice and powerful rendition of “On My Own”.
The story and screenplay are weak, but there wasn’t much the movie could really do about that, that was rather the source material that is to blame for that. But it is still applicable to blame this movie for being wish-washy of its source material as it focuses way too much on the love triangle rather than on the revolution or Jean Valjean’s rise and fall. But to Hooper’s credit, he has obviously read the Victor Hugo novels and found little details to add to the film that normally don’t feature in the stage adaptation (like Madame Baptistine and Magloire or the scene with children throwing rocks at Valjean) and although this doesn’t do much for the film, it doesn’t take away from it either.
The film is visually stunning though and the cinematography is unique and features interesting close-up shots that help capture character and emotion. The film also features beautiful shots of Paris. The soundtrack however is not as pleasing, many of the singers featured are not great singers (Crowe, Redmayne, Cohen to name a few), but the ‘raw’ feel that Hooper was going for, just doesn’t work in a musical.
So even with great acting and stunning visuals there needs to be wonderful singing in a musical, even if that musical is ‘raw’ (listen to London Road for an example). But there are though a few of the actors who are great singers, most notably are Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks, who are also both musical theatre actors. This film makes for a good drama with great acting, but not a great musical.
Best Aspect- Tveit and Barks
Worst Aspect- Russell Crowe