So here I am, At The End Of The Day if you will, emotionally drained after watching Tom Hopper’s much anticipated, screen adaptation of Les Misérables. The show that will probably still be running during the next ice age has made it to the silver screen, and we can see anew Jean Valjean’s struggle to atone for his sins in revolutionary France.
I am a fan of the stage show and when met by the promotional trailers I was very sceptical indeed. However, the full experience has certainly impressed me. The cinematography is spectacular, with the opening ship building set piece and the transitions between locales wonderfully depicted in grandiose, cinematic strokes. In a juxta-posing and risky move, many of the key sections of the musical are framed in lingering close ups, perhaps to avoid appearing too stage like. Ultimately it pays off and it made for some astonishing moments, namely every single shot containing Anne Hathaway. Only in the film for nigh on twenty minutes, she single handedly broke an entire audience’s hearts and had this aspiring manly-man reviewer in tears. Hopper’s astonishing achievement of recording all of the singing live gives the lines a naturalistic and highly affecting feel that allows the actors’ performances to really shine through. Plaudits will rightly gravitate towards Hathaway, who at this point is less Oscar baiting, more hunting them down with a harpoon. However, in her shadow, the rest of the cast, many of whom are not musical theatre actors, acquit themselves very well; Hugh Jackman gives Jean Valjean depth, Eddie Redmayne makes for a convincing Marius and somehow Amanda Seyfried manages the tough gig of making Cosette not entirely uninteresting. Comic relief, and boy is it needed, is provided capably by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter and Russell Crowe’s tortured Inspector Javet really isn’t bad, with his more rock-like vocals.
Ultimately it is the music that truly makes Les Misérables on stage and in film. While I have a few niggles about slightly jarring editing choices in both the libretto and the visuals, these largely dissipate as the film progresses beyond the prologue’s awkward speak-singing. With the more intimate choice of close ups, the music can feel a little quiet at times to make space for delicate vocals, but when it lets rip it really is buoyant and a joy to watch and hear with a full orchestra. Less bombastic than the stage show, but perhaps all the more devastating for it, Hopper’s Les Misérables truly is a revolutionary movie musical.