Saturday, December 29, 2012

Les Miserables (2012 film)

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo and its musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, Les Miserables is the story about a convict who becomes a mayor in France only to be haunted by the presence of a police inspector as he goes on the run with a young girl to take care of for her mother as they later deal with a growing revolution. Directed by Tom Hooper and screenplay by Boublil, Schonberg, William Nicholson, and Herbert Kretzmer, the film is an exploration into redemption and seeking the chance to find a new life while facing old fears. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helena Bohnam Carter. Les Miserables is a sprawling yet spectacular musical from Tom Hooper.

After serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his nephew, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole as he tries to find work only to be shunned for his conviction as he finds shelter at a church. After stealing some silver from that church and later captured, the bishop (Colm Wilkinson) claims that he gave the silver to Valjean as he later tells him to use it to start a new life. Eight years later, Valjean reinvents himself as a mayor only to deal with the presence of a police investigator named Javert (Russell Crowe) whom Valjean know who was the lead guard at the prison many years ago. Meanwhile, a woman named Fatine (Anne Hathaway) was fired by a foreman as she is seeking to get money for her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen) who is living at another home. Fatine is forced into prostitution as she is later saved by Valjean who realizes what’s happened to her as he vows to Fatine that he will find Cosette and take care of her.

After evading Javert who had learned about Valjean’s true identity, Valjean finds Cosette who is living with a couple in Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bohnam Carter) as he gives them money to take Cosette off their hands. After realizing Javert is in Paris looking for him, Valjean and Cosette hide in a convent where Valjean is able to escape from Javert. Nine years later as Valjean becomes a father to Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), revolution is happening as Cosette catches the eye of a young revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Also in Paris are the Thenardiers and their daughter Eponine (Samantha Barks) who is in love with Marius as she reluctantly shows his where Cosette lives.

After realizing that Javert is nearby, Valjean runs away again with Cosette until the battle rages on where he learns that Cosette has fallen in love with Marius as he decides to help Marius with the revolution. When Javert is in the battle as a spy and later captured by the revolutionaries, he and Valjean come face-to-face where Valjean would make a decision about their fates.

The film is the story about a convict who seeks to find redemption after being in prison for 19 years over a small crime as he is haunted by who he is as well as an inspector who doesn’t believe that this man will redeem himself. Along the way, he finds salvation and love as he does whatever it takes to do right for a woman who had been wronged and for a young girl to become a beautiful young woman who later falls for a revolutionary. In the course of the film, it is a story about people all trying to get something whether it’s to fulfill a sense of duty, to find love, to be loved, or to gain redemption in these terrible times during the early 1800s in France after the French Revolution.

The screenplay is faithful to the musical as it explores a lot of the complexities of these characters as it is largely about Jean Valjean’s yearning to find redemption for his sins where he would do things for those he felt had been wronged or what he had done. Yet, he is pursued by Inspector Javert who is convinced that Valjean is a criminal and always will be a criminal as once he learned Valjean had broke parole. He is determined to do whatever to get him back in prison as an act of duty. When Valjean reinvents himself as a mayor where he hopes that people will be treated well, he learns about a woman who had been fired and goes into prostitution in Fatine. Fatine is someone who just wants to work to give money to help care for her illegitimate child as she goes into great despair thinking there is no good in the world until Valjean saves her where he would vow to do right for her by becoming a father to her daughter.

When Valjean takes Cosette away from the cruel Thenardiers, who likes to steal from their customers at their inn, he hopes to give Cosette a life that is good and will allow her to become a woman. Yet, times would change in the face of another revolution in France where Cosette would fall for this young revolutionary in Marius as he becomes torn between love and duty as he is unaware that the Thenardiers’ daughter Eponine is in love with him as she would play a key part in the story. Eventually, things would collide where Valjean would have to get involved with the revolution in order to do whatever to give two young people a future while facing his own demons as well as Javert.

Tom Hooper’s direction is definitely big in terms of its presentation as it is a musical that isn’t shot on some stage or a soundstage. Instead, it is shot as if it was on location where things are big and the musical numbers also play up to the grandeur of the story. While there’s a few moments such as some shaky hand-held camera work that doesn’t entirely work at times, Hooper does manage to keep things in tact through these sprawling compositions filled with crane shots, tracking shots, and other stylistic shots to maintain that air of spectacle. Hooper does also bring things where it is intimate in order to display emotions or something that helps tell the story.

Since this is a musical, there isn’t a lot of spoken dialogue as a lot of it essentially sung. Notably on the set where it adds to the emotional tone of the story such as the I Dreamed a Dream scene where it is shot in one unbroken take to capture the sense of anguish and loss that Fatine is going through. While the bombastic music that is by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil does play into the many emotions of the film, Hooper’s direction makes sure that the music isn’t distracting while taking a few moments for the singing to stop for a few dialogue interplay with the actors. Still, it is about what is sung and how it helps tell the story as Hooper knows when to keep things simple that includes the film’s ending. Overall, Tom Hooper crafts a very heart-wrenching yet dazzling musical that has all of the splendor in what is expected in the genre.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen does excellent work with the film’s photography from the somewhat de-saturated look of the colors in the exteriors to the more simplistic yet stylish lighting schemes in the interiors. Editors Melanie Anne Oliver and Chris Dickens is terrific for its stylish approach to cutting by using some fast cuts on some of the film’s upbeat numbers while going for more methodical cuts in the ballads. Production designer Eve Stewart and supervising art director Grant Armstrong do amazing work with the set pieces from the dreary look of the prostitutes area to the chaos that is set in Paris for the film’s revolutionary scenes including its climatic battle.

Costume designer Paco Delgado does brilliant work with the costumes from the lavish yet ragged look of some of the women‘s clothing to the uniform that Javert wears. Hair and makeup designer Lisa Westcott does superb work with the look of the characters for Valjean as he ages in the years to the more offbeat look of the Thenardiers. Visual effects supervisors Richard Bain and Sean Mathiesen do wonderful work with some of the exterior settings to recreate the look of early 1800s France. Sound designer Dominic Gibbs along with sound editors Lee Walpole and John Warhurst, does fantastic work with the sound to blend all of the voices in multiple singing parts as well as the intimacy in some of the solo parts of the singing.

The casting by Nina Gold is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Aaron Tveit as Marius’ revolutionary friend Enjolras, Daniel Huttlestone as the adolescent revolutionary Gavroche, Michael Jibson as the foreman who fires Fatine, Patrick Godfrey as Marius’ grandfather, Natalya Angel Wallace as the young Eponine, and Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop of Digne who would play a key part into the direction Valjean would take into his life. Helena Bohnam Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are delightful as the very funny Thenardiers who like to steal and do whatever as they later try to profit from the revolution. Eddie Redmayne is superb as Marius as a young man who is torn with his devotion for the revolution and the love he has for Cosette as he later deals with the aftermaths about what he’s gained and lost.

Samantha Barks is amazing as Eponine as the daughter of the Thenardiers who is in love with Marius as she tries to deal with his feelings towards Cosette as she would play a part into the revolution. Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried are wonderful in the different age of Cosette with Allen as the young girl seeking to find someone to treat her right while Seyfried adds to sense of longing as the older Cosette as she has a wonderful moment in her duet with Redmayne. Russell Crowe is excellent as Inspector Javert with his rugged presence and his determination to maintain his sense of duty though there’s some parts in Crowe’s singing where he is trying a bit hard though he is better suited in the ballads when he doesn’t try so hard.

Anne Hathaway is outstanding in her small yet unforgettable performance as Fatine where Hathaway displays all of the anguish and torment the character goes to as she later deals with loss and later peace. Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream is truly the highlight of the film where the singing is raw yet so filled with emotion that it is an indication of Hathaway’s talents as an actress. Finally, there’s Hugh Jackman in a tour-de-force performance as Jean Valjean where Jackman not only brings in that sense of physicality and strength that was needed for the part. Jackman also brings in a sensitivity and conflict to man unsure of himself as he seeks to find redemption as it is definitely a crowning achievement for the Australian actor in all counts including his singing.

Les Miserables is a phenomenal film from Tom Hooper that a remarkable ensemble cast and a look that plays to its ambition. It is a film that indicates that the musical will never go away when it’s executed in the right way. Notably as it features amazing songs and dazzling set pieces that plays to the many emotions of the story. In the end, Les Miserables is a marvelous film from Tom Hooper.

Tom Hooper Films: (Red Dust) - (The Damned United) - The King's Speech

© thevoid99 2012


s. said...

Excellent review! I was actually checking the reviews for the movie on metacritic today - it's so strange because the film is getting all of these great reviews on blogosphere yet on metacritic it has very average score.

I'm really looking forward to it, especially because of Anne's and Jackman's performances. These two can really sing and their characters are so wonderful.

thevoid99 said...

I don't really pay attention to metacritic as I find Rotten Tomatoes to be a bit more accurate.

You will enjoy this. Anne and Hugh are the best singers in the film with Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks close by.

I was in tears during I Dreamed a Dream... Anne better win that Oscar or there will be hell to pay!!!!