Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Miserable

With a couple of Golden Globes and Oscar nominations under its belt, today’s film already seems to be one that the higher powers in film seem to be enjoying. Why? Why not? It is a film about miserable people singing. What more could one want? It has been a while since a musical was so successful in the awards season so what makes this one so different? This is Les Misérables.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has been imprisoned, a slave to the law, for nineteen years; five years because he stole a loaf of bread, the rest because he tried to run. He has been under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) but finally, he gets his parole. Javert insists he is a dangerous man but Valjean soon finds a bishop who makes him an honest man. Jump forward 8 years. Valjean is now Monsieur Madeleine and is the mayor of a small town. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), gets fired and becomes a prostitute after selling her hair and some teeth. After attacking a man, Javert demands for his arrest but Valjean insists she goes to a hospital. He swears to take care of her child, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who is being cared for by the Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), a couple who run an inn with their daughter Éponine (Natalya Wallace). Valjean takes Cosette away. Jump forward nine years. Students, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), along with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huddlestone), plan for revolution. Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Éponine (Samantha Barks) are now young ladies and have eyes for Marius, Javert is still completely law driven, Valjean – with Cosette – still lives in hiding, and France is on the verge of civil war. All the characters’ lives start intertwining as they get closer and closer to the day when battle starts, but how will things turn out.

And people wondered why Valjean had a damp personality. 
There is really only one negative casting choice so we will start by looking at that. Amanda Seyfried’s voice is terribly irritating. When she sings, for some reason, she cannot hold a note without trilling and wavering. It might not be such an issue if she was not a high soprano, which, with the wavering, makes her sound like an alarm bell. As irritating as Cosette is as a character, it does not mean she has to sound annoying. Apart from this, the cast was nigh to perfect. Hugh Jackman, nominated for Best Leading Actor at the Oscars, is a powerful protagonist and gives a really touching performance that shows his care and love for the people around him. A truly reformed man after nineteen years in prison. Crowe, as Javert, has possibly been had the most divided reviews. Why? It is unclear. He was fantastic as Javert. He nails the internal conflict that Javert struggles from; there is only good and bad in his mind, anything in between causes serious issues. He makes an ideal opposite to Jackman’s Valjean – see the Confrontation song for proof of this. Hathaway, nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, is on screen for only a short period of time but she dominates every scene she is in. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ will send shivers town your spine and tingle your soul. A hauntingly beautiful song. *Breathes for a moment. Lot of cast to get through here.*

When English students rioted, there was a lot of damage.
When French Students rioted, there was singing. 
Eddie Redmayne has a beautiful voice. Whilst his love may never seem genuine, his heartbreak certainly is. ‘Empty Chairs and Empty Tables’ will rip at your heart; get the tissues ready. Despite his slightly odd singing face, the voice that accompanies it is stunning and most of Marius’ emotions are echoed in song rather than his physical actions. Aaron Tveit as Enjolras is the strongest of the students. He’s driven by revolution and his tough persona, arguably, is the main thing that keeps the men’s spirits up. Again, his voice is spot on for the character; it is strong and powerful. He just emits swag. Samantha Barks, the beautiful Éponine, having played the part on stage, is simply incredible. Her voice is so captivating, ‘On My Own,’ becomes so engaging even though it is just a girl standing in the rain. Hopefully, she will push further for a career in film so we will see more of her.Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen are the comedy relief in the film and thank God for them. The film is so soul destroying, some comedy is completely needed. ‘Master of the House’ sums them up completely as you watch them smoothly steal from people’s pockets, heads, and even eye sockets. They are a treat in the sad times. Finally, the child actors are wonderful, particularly Daniel Huddlestone. Gavroche is possibly the strongest willed character in the French revolution and is so cool you just wish you could hang around with him. Maybe give him a couple of years to grow up first though. Phew.

Look out for Éponine's book:Friendzoning - A First Hand Experience. 
So now to the man who brought it all together. A man who already holds an Oscar for his direction of The Kings Speech two years ago, Tom Hooper. Despite having a face that never fails to seem smug (Google image his name), he has done wonders here. His decision to sing live on set is not much short of genius. You can see how it affects the performance of every single actor and actress. One cannot help but think that perhaps the film would be completely different if it had been done like a conventional musical, with the soundtrack filmed before the shooting starts. Obviously, the music is incredible. What else would one expect from a world renown musical? The set, too, is so visually astounding. From giant elephant sculptures to giant barricades, the whole film captures your eye and your interest. It makes it hard to look away. And there's something very interesting in the way certain bits are shot. They are particularly noticable in Javert's moments. For example, when singing 'Stars', we see him on a roof singing out to France with possible the most open shot of the film, but rarely does the film feel more intimate. There are often moments like this which are hard to explain how they work, but they just do.

A simply brilliant piece of cinema. The only really negative, as already stated, is Amanda Seyfried's singing. The rest of the songs will be stuck in your head for days, maybe weeks. There is something about it that just makes you want to watch it again and again. This humble blogger has seen it four times already (three times to indulge other people who wanted to see it, admittedly). A great watch, but do not forget the tissues. It is a weepy one.

Best Bit? The choreography in 'Confrontation' between Javert and Valjean is simply incredibly captivating and, along with what is one of the best songs in the musical, it just is an unforgettable moment.


  1. You are so far up your own ass you can see through your own eyes. ASSception

    1. It's nice to see the internet has not run short on masters of wit.