|Official movie poster|
By Tasman Anderson
BRISBANE, Australia – It's not a common occurrence for a film to feature more singing than dialogue. However, Director Tom Hooper's musical, Les Misérables not only achieves this, but goes one step further by having no more than a dozen words uttered throughout the entire two and a half hour film.
Before seeing the movie, I had no idea what Les Misérables was about or even that it was a novel and extremely successful theater production.
I went into the cinema with no idea that it was even a musical so you can imagine my surprise when a rough and sagged Hugh Jackman started singing the second he appeared, holding onto heavy ropes and covered in dirt! However, it soon dawned on me that it wasn't just an ordinary musical.
For those of you who are unaware, Les Misérables is a film adaption of Victor Hugo's 1862 French historical novel as well as Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's musical, both of the same name.
The film tells the story of prisoner 24601, Jean Valjean who after being released from prison, breaks his parole in order to create a new life for himself.
Throughout the film, he constantly attempts to evade the persistent Inspector Javert who wishes to take him back into custody. This proves even more difficult when he agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette.
Set during post-revolutionary France, the story includes much of the June Rebellion as an interesting background for all the history lovers.
The cast includes many A-list celebrities such as Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, as well fresh talent Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit and Eddie Redmayne.
Performances by Jackman as Jean Valjean and Hathaway as Fantine were breathtaking, providing a chemistry that had the audience hoping that their friendship would blossom into romance.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Carter and Cohen as the thieving couple, Thénardier and Madam Thénardier, bringing laughter to the otherwise dark film.
Furthermore, the entire cast was extremely impressive when it came to vocals. Because they were required to record their songs as they acted their scenes out, the vocals ended up so emotionally charged that I was left feeling a mix between elation and sadness.
At times, though, I found it quite difficult to tell when one song ended and another started. Although there's no doubt that the actors should be commended for their performances, unfortunately each new song seemed to be a carbon copy of the previous one and without any dialogue to bring my focus back, I found myself getting lost in my thoughts or fidgety in my chair.
But there were a few songs that really captivated me.
During the start of the battle, the rebels perform “Do You Hear the People Sing?” which talks about their frustrations with the king and their refusal to remain slaves. This was definitely one of my favorite songs. It was so beautifully done that I felt ready to fight for my freedom as if I were one of the slaves.
Another winner was “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” performed by Cosette's lover and rebel student, Marius, played by Redmayne. The song is featured after the rebels lose the battle and he returns to find nothing but bullet holes and broken furniture. Redmayne's vocals are so haunting and rich that I was literally crying like a baby by the end of the song.
Les Misérables definitely gives off the vibe of a musical theater production on film and is not for the faint hearted.
The storyline is beautifully crafted and the all-star cast does a phenomenal job. However, those who are not interested in musicals or musical theater will more than likely find it difficult to sit through two and a half hours of almost nothing but singing, even with the movie featuring an exceptional cast.
If you are intrigued by the storyline but might not be able to handle the long period of singing in a crowded cinema, then you should wait for its DVD release and watch it at your own leisure.
For those of you who adore musical theater, be prepared to spend your entire paycheck on movie tickets because you're definitely going to want to see this film more than once.