Les Miserables: A Movie Review

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Set in the 1800s in the years after the French Revolution, Les Miserables tells the tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who breaks his parole to live a normal life. After his escape, Valjean spends his life doing good. He becomes a mayor and runs a factory. When he learns that one of his female workers was fired and forced to become a prostitute in order to save her daughters life, he makes it his goal to find the young daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and to raise her as his own.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, the movie Les Miserables was a great adaptation of the play. There were a few scenes added in the beginning so that the transitions made sense, which I really liked, but I wish that they continued that thought process through to the very end, which I felt was choppy and jumpy.

Keeping in mind that this is a film adaptation and not a magnificent broadway show, I was slightly disappointed by the vocals of Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman. And, yes, I do know that they didn’t go into a recording studio beforehand and that it was all live singing (which actually could account for some of the iffiness of the vocals). I thought Hugh Jackman’s vocals were good 95% of the time. The other 5% the vocals were tight and cracky. Russell Crowe on the other hand… He just needs to show more emotion. I felt like his vocals were flat and throaty, and wished he showed a little more passion.

I was very surprised by Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried (although I forgot she was in Mama Mia), who I was not happy with at first, but they both did a spectacular job in my book. I was also extremely happy with Samantha Barks who played Eponine. I originally heard that Taylor Swift was a shoe in for the role and while I think Taylor Swift has amazing vocals, she is no Eponine. So I’m glad they got someone who had actually performed the musical before.

My only other big critique was the camera angles. I wonder if the director ever heard of taking a panoramic shot instead of focusing closely on the actors faces. I understand that he probably wanted to get good shots of them in their singing mode, but when Javert and Jean Valjean were sword fighting he could have panned out and got them both in the shot instead of quickly switching between the actors. But, what do I know. I’m not director and I have never filmed a movie in my life.

Putting the vocals and directing aside, I think the acting was amazing. They definitely chose the right actors to portray the characters (although I couldn’t help but giggle thinking that Wolverine was playing Jean Valjean). I also really enjoy that they put some aspects of the book in the movie and didn’t stick fully to the play, although I would like to see a version where they portray Marius’s character like he is at the end of the novel where he helps push Jean Valjean our of Cosette’s life. But, hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

Grade: B

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