Les Miserables

HD. Hugh Jackman stars as hero Jean Valjean in this exhilarating, Oscar(R)-winning adaptation of the hit Broadway musical.
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Supporting actors
Amanda SeyfriedEddie RedmayneSamantha BarksAaron TveitHelena Bonham CarterSacha Baron Cohen
Nicholas AllottBernard BellewRaphaël BenolielTim BevanFrancesca BuddLiza ChasinEric FellnerDebra HaywardCameron Mackintosh
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

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KaylaReviewed in the United States on February 26, 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
A mixed bag with some pleasant surprises
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I guess I need to begin with my background with the show. I am a longtime (but not diehard) fan of the musical. I've had the chance to see a touring production and own both anniversary concerts as well as several different cast recordings, so I consider myself a relatively well versed fan. (By the way, it really bothers me when someone who didn't like the movie says, "Oh, I'm not a fan of the musical, but I'm sure fans will love the movie." If you are not a fan and don't know anyone who is, I don't think you're qualified to say what fans will or will not like. Anyway, I just had to get that rant out of the way.)

I was both excited and guarded when this movie was announced. After some of the recent musicals Hollywood has tackled, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm pleased to say it was a commendable effort, and the producers and director were fearless enough to experiment with both the long-running tradition of Hollywood musicals and a work as well loved as Les Mis.

The biggest pro for me is probably the acting, with a few exceptions I'll mention below. This is where I think the live singing really worked, as it liberated the actors to really act and play off each other. But I feel like Tom Hooper was often operating under the mystifying idea that one cannot sing in the "stage" style and still act realistically. First, anyone even remotely familiar with music can tell you that the best performances are the ones that tap into the emotions in the music. Perhaps he didn't want to turn off audiences who did not enjoy musicals and tried to appeal to them by taking the music in a different direction. All I can say is, the main reason I personally enjoy musicals is because of the MUSIC. Second, musicals as a genre are not realistic; there is nothing realistic about people spontaneously bursting into song. If I want realism, I'll watch one of my adaptations of the novel. As I said, I can't really figure out the reasoning behind this idea, but it obviously hasn't bothered a lot of people.

Now, I'm normally a purist, but I'll admit the numerous changes and excisions didn't bother me (for the most part), but many will undoubtedly find them distracting and/or annoying. Things I wished they hadn't changed are the reduction in Éponine's role and the moving of "I Dreamed a Dream." Things I wish they had changed are some of the keys in the songs and the sequence of events. By the latter, I men that it still felt TOO much like the musical; you could easily see where the intermission would go. I think in this area, they were too eager to remain faithful to the stage show, where they didn't take full advantage of the film medium. (I did like many of the book influences they threw in, though.)

The cinematography and effects were a real disappointment. They had a chance to give us some really sweeping scenery and some great action during the battles. Instead, we get a lot of poor CGI, closeups, and shaky cam. Maybe Hooper decided that we could get all our wide shots watching the stage, so we needed a ton of closeups in the film to capture the actors' emotions. Again, it was a good theory that just didn't work in practice.

As for the individual performances, I'll just go through some of them. I'm going to preface this by saying once again that I did not like the style of singing used in the film, but I acknowledge it for what it was meant to be. So when I say I didn't like someone's singing, I mean I thought it was lacking in some other way.

HUGH JACKMAN: I was really excited when I heard that they'd cast him. I thought he was a perfect choice, a fabulous actor with stage experience (a Tony to boot), a box office draw to please the producers, and he really looked the part. Well, as usual his acting didn't disappoint, but I was surprised at how rough the singing was. I think perhaps the songs were too big for him (he murdered "Bring Him Home"), and I think this is a role generally unsuited for a baritone. This is one place I'd have preferred some key changes to the straining, awkward notes. Looking back on Hugh's work, I think he would have been more suited for Javert, whose songs have a range more suited to his voice; plus I have no doubt that he could be a very threatening yet also sympathetic Javert. Which brings me to...

RUSSELL CROWE: Let's face it, he can't sing. That's fine, I can't either; it's not his fault. But I think this really affected his acting, because rather than liberating him to really act, he seemed to be constantly focusing on hitting the right notes. It was a very bland, very disappointing performance for such a wonderful character. (It was particularly painful when Hadley Fraser showed up later in the film and I was thinking, they had a stellar Javert right on set and yet we end up with...this. But I digress.) Like Jackman, he murdered his character's Big Solo, "Stars." Not the biggest letdown, because I hadn't really formed any expectations, but still a disappointment.

ANNE HATHAWAY: She's another casting choice I was really looking forward to seeing. I knew she had a lovely voice, and given her mom's history with the role, I was eager to see what she would do with it. Her acting was good (I wasn't as big a fan as some), and she was up to the numbers vocally, but I just don't think her performance merits all the attention it's gotten, let alone an Oscar. (Yeah, yeah, boo me all you want.) Some of it just felt like she was screaming "Oscar nomination!" The sobbing through "I Dreamed a Dream" really alienated me. While realistic, it felt much too overdramatic. The more restrained grief is always what brings me to tears, because you can see how hard the character is trying to hold it together when they know everything's lost.

AMANDA SEYFRIED: Yet another one I had high hopes for. I loved her in Mamma Mia, and I thought if she could tap into that innocence and sweetness, she'd be great. Well, she did, to an extent, but I feel like she was trying too hard sometimes to be dramatic. Her voice was also thin and uncertain in many places (surprising, because she sounded so good in Mamma Mia). On the plus side, her Cosette was a genteel bourgeoise, which I appreciate because Cosettes often tend to be a little airheaded. I see Cosette as being more naïve, as opposed to ditzy. I could not stand the way they kept saying Cosette, though: C'sette. Her name is Coh-sette. But I digress.

EDDIE REDMAYNE: Probably the surprise performance for me. I didn't know anything about his singing beforehand, so I had no expectations. I thought his Marius was a good balance of the starry-eyed lover and the student revolutionary. We don't get to see Marius as a revolutionary all that often; he spends most of the show mooning over a girl he's just met, but his part in "Look Down" does suggest that he's been very dedicated to their cause. Eddie's "Empty Chairs" was also wonderful (for the film style, again), very moving, and here I again refer to my preference for more restrained grief. He was probably my second favorite, after...

SAMANTHA BARKS: Definitely the standout performance for me. But that was no surprise; I had seen her in the 25th anniversary concert and thought her acting was spot-on there. She's evolved the character since then, and some of the scenes with Eddie were really touching. I can't say enough good things about her, really, and I think the more intimate style of singing really served her character well. "On My Own" was probably the highlight of the film for me.. I look forward to seeing her on the silver screen again.

SACHA BARON COHEN/HELENA BONHAM CARTER: Two more disappointments for me, especially Helena who can be so good at the comic-yet-sinister portrayal. I thought they were both on the bland side. "Master of the House" was really sleepy. Strangely enough, I think they were both trying to play up the comic relief, completely missing the idea that the Thénardiers have a much darker side. (He goes through the sewers and steals from the bodies of the dead students!) So I didn't think they were either funny or sinister, thus a disappointment.

AARON TVEIT: Forget Jackman, forget Crowe--THIS was the real letdown of the movie for me. I'm including him because I'm just so disgusted by the reception his uninspiring performance has gotten. He is probably the worst Enjolras I've ever heard. Enjolras is charismatic, confident, and passionate. These boys worship him and are willing to follow him anywhere. I felt like Aaron was inviting his friends out to tea, rather than to their imminent deaths. I want to feel like marching out in the streets with banners flying when I hear him. Instead, I just find myself wanting to skip through all his parts because, quite frankly, they were just boring. Aaron could have been one of the Amis, but they needed a much more powerful actor for Enjolras. Do NOT think that this tepid performance is what Enjolras is really like. The guy probably rivals Javert for fanaticism--but then, Javert was pretty bland in this too, so perhaps that doesn't tell you much if you've only seen the film. Think about it this way: he has no qualms about leading his friends to their deaths, or giving his own life, for a cause he believes in. And in turn, his friends are completely loyal to him. Please, movie-only viewers, go and watch Ramin Karimloo or Michael Maguire in the anniversary concerts if you want to see a real Enjolras. Do not EVEN attempt to write an Enjo fanfic if Aaron Tveit is your only exposure to this character, because I will hunt you down, tie you to a chair, and make you watch both concerts before you get anywhere near your fic again. (Okay, breathe. Sorry, but Enjolras is probably my favorite character from the show and seeing his character destroyed like this makes me want to scream.)

Besides "On My Own," the highlight of the film for me was unquestionably Colm Wilkinson's cameo. And, as they said in one featurette, it was quite symbolic to see him handing the candlesticks over to Hugh Jackman--"passing on the torch," almost literally.

It's a solid film with a lot of good ideas that I hope to see developed and expanded on in the future, but not all of them worked here. I don't feel the film deserves all the accolades it's been receiving, but it's opened up the world of Les Mis to a new audience, so I count it as a positive overall. I recommend all fans of the musical see it at least once to form their own opinions, if only so they can chime in during conversations about it. ;) B+
4 people found this helpful
Christine P. RoseReviewed in the United States on January 20, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Lot Wrong, But A Lot Right
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I am a longtime fan of the Broadway show (original cast including Colm Wilkinson). I went 3 years refusing to watch this movie because while I knew for certain several of the actors involved had singing backgrounds, I wasn't convinced they wouldn't butcher the thing, and pretty much figured I'd be sorely disappointed after having seen the Broadway musical.

I was half-right.

Given that the actors in question were hired for their names rather than their actual fit for the role, I have only a few real quibbles. First, Russell Crowe, oh dear God in Heaven, should not be allowed to try to sing. I found his forced vocals throughout the entire movie to be so distracting (I kept wondering when he'd break his voice box) that it became torturous to watch any scenes containing Javert. Interestingly enough, it seemed Crowe was trying SO hard to get the vocals right that he had nothing left to concentrate on actual acting. I never believed for one moment that his Javert was as hell-bent on the law and capturing Valjean as the lyrics lead us to believe, unlike the Broadway actors before him. He was stiff and (ha-ha) looked petrified every time he was on-screen. There was NO chemistry at all between him and Jackman, which is so crucial to their interplay throughout the musical that its absence was almost painful.

Hugh Jackman was 100% the right vibe and ability to portray Valjean. Unfortunately, Jackman's a baritone and Valjean's a tenor. While Jackman hit the notes thanks to vocal coaching, I was (same as Crowe) waiting for something to pop inside him, because it sounded so awfully strained when he sang most of the songs. The higher he went in an unnatural register for him, the more nasal and strained his voice got. Once again, as with Crowe, it was highly distracting from the tale, as was his lack of chemistry with his arch-rival. He had more chemistry with the child Cosette and with Fantine than he did with the person he spent the most time with throughout the entire length of the film (Crowe).

While Anne Hathaway was remarkable (and is a trained singer and wasn't trying to sing out of her natural range) - yes, she deserved the Oscar she received - the problem I had with her playing Fantine is that her vibe was way off. Fantine has to be completely vulnerable, with no hint that she's any more capable than a wretched, put-upon, done-wrong-to woman. Fortunately for Hathaway, but unfortunately for her portrayal of Fantine, she vibes as a woman who's totally capable of anything...who's very strong. Absolutely the wrong feel for Fantine. She did, as I said, a wonderful job with the part, and thoroughly deserved her award...but she wasn't the right fit for the character.

I adore Amanda Seyfried, and have since I saw her in "Mamma Mia!" That girl can SING. Once again, however, they took a very beautiful actress with a name and forced her to sing so far outside her vocal range that I was waiting for glass to shatter (or for HER to shatter). Seyfriend is not a mezzo-soprano, nor did the Broadway version of adult Cosette sound like the old Disney Snow White or the old Disney Cinderella, which unfortunately is what Seyfried sounded like. The far-too-high-pitched and far-too-warbling soprano were not at all natural for Seyfriend, and made me dislike her songs terribly...when normally I love them. The other problem I felt with Seyfried being cast is that she's beautiful, yes, but she's "modern" beautiful rather than "classic" beautiful. In a period piece like this, it throws you.

The little girl who played child Cosette (Isabelle Allen) was absolutely spot-on perfect - what a gorgeous and talented child. And so was Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Very believable, both of them.

Having come from doing this on Broadway, Samantha Barks was perfect as Eponine because when she got the role - for theater - she was hired because her voice and her vibe were right for the part. It's why she worked.

My issue with Marius (Eddie Redmayne) is largely his look was wrong. His voice and vibe were perfect, but he just didn't resemble the classic drop-dead gorgeous young student from this time period. Like Seyfried, he's good-looking in a more modern sense that just doesn't work if you're trying to convince me he's from olden-days France. I also felt no chemistry whatsoever between Redmayne and Seyfried, which doesn't work at all considering they're supposed to be love-at-first-sight starcrossed young adults.

Aaron Tveit was marvelous as Enjolras. Absolutely outstanding.

Helena Bonham Carter was perfect for Madame Thenardier because it's a wild, crazy role and that's what she does best. Plus she can sing well enough to carry it off. The role is meant to be humorous and Carter fits the bill. The same for Sacha Baron Cohen's Thenardier. It's supposed to be an outrageous, larger than life character, which is why he worked. Trying to fake the French accent was ridiculous...at least, I hope that's not how he really sounds. Would've been better to just do it in his normal accent like Carter - the fake French sound was distracting. The single funniest thing with these two for me in the film, was something I wish they'd incorporate into the Broadway version, actually, and that was Thenardier constantly getting Cosette's name wrong when talking to someone else. "Colette," et al. That was HILARIOUS and really added to the believability of the Thenardiers not caring a whit for Cosette.

Having listed all my complaints (well, not all of the above were complaints), you'll note that I still gave the film four stars. Because it had some amazing points that really made me apt to watch it again in spite of the assault on my eardrums and uncomfortable vibes.

The sets were unbelievable. Absolutely authentic, beautiful, amazing...very, very, very well done. I never for a moment didn't believe I was where the movie said I was. Outstanding work.

They sang it live on camera when it was filmed. (Which explains why Crowe looked petrified throughout the movie.) But that just makes it SO authentic, that even though most of them aren't singing in the right ranges for their voices, just the idea that they had to do this live on set rather than it being recorded in a studio and dubbed later...and the fact that the music was added to match what the actors had done in the scenes...makes it a wonderful ride if you keep that in mind. I think the director (Tom Hooper) was spot-on with that decision because it made the whole thing feel REAL. And that's not something you often get in musical films...you only get that feel (usually) in the theater. So bravo to Hooper and bravo to the entire cast for managing to pull that off!

My final comment is in regards to Colm Wilkinson, who is the one and only Valjean for me. I was so pleased to see him playing the Bishop...to see him in the movie, period. Although I admit it was REALLY weird to watch him singing to Jackman's Valjean, because my brain kept going, but wait, HE'S Valjean - does not compute!!! I don't know if Wilkinson's voice isn't what it used to be or what, but I suspect it's the out-of-range thing again. Wilkinson's a tenor, but the Bishop's down in the bass range with his vocals, so even though I was ecstatic he was there (and pleased to see him included at the end in Valjean's death scene), that was only because I love the actor. Unfortunately, he didn't do so well with the Bishop's lyrics but heck, him I give a pass because he made "Les Miserables" what it is today (at least in the States) so he gets grandfathered, period.

The acting is superb, it's just that using names does not, and never will, give you the same feel as when you watch it live on stage with people who were picked for the roles because they fit it in voice, in vibe AND in skill.
One person found this helpful
thornhillatthemovies.comReviewed in the United States on January 9, 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
A "Dream" Becomes A Reality
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I would venture to say most American movie-goers have never had the opportunity to see a Broadway musical. Why? Opportunity, desire, you choose. And because musicals are a relative scarcity in the multiplex these days, people aren't used to live action musicals of any kind. Many are probably unaware there are different kinds of musicals. "Chicago", "The Producers", "Mamma Mia" and "Moulin Rouge" are the most common form of musicals. Actors speak dialogue and the story moves forward as most films do, but they frequently stop and break out into a song and dance, delivering a musical number that should help move the story forward. But there are also `operatic musicals', productions in which virtually every word is sung and the musical numbers are still there, but less defined. "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" are examples of this type of musical.

I know a lot of people who would rather have their toenails pulled out with pliers than to sit through a movie musical. These same people detest `operatic musicals' because they never get a break from the music and singing.

If you are one of these people, you will not like "Les Mis". But if a musical is made well, it can really transport you, enveloping all of your senses. And "Les Mis" is made very well; a highly emotional, very satisfying adaptation of one of the most successful, longest running musicals in history.

The story is very familiar. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman, calling on his Broadway skills) is imprisoned for stealing bread to feed a sick family member. Many years later, he is released on probation by Javert (Russell Crowe) who promises to keep an eye on the criminal, watching for any mistake, ready to jail him in an instant. Flash forward a few years and Valjean is now living under another identity as the owner of a factory making rosary beads. A successful man, he is surprised when Javert shows up in the small town. Javert seems to recognize Valjean, but can't place him. Nervous, Valjean ignores the pleas of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of the factory workers trying to evade the lecherous foreman. Fantine is fired and falls of hard times, very hard times. Eventually Valjean realizes what has happened and pledges to her that he will find her daughter and care for her. Javert also realizes who Valjean is and is hot on his heels. Valjean finds Fantine's daughter, Cosette in the care of the Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter), dubious inn-keepers constantly looking for more money. Flash forward a few years and Valjean and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) are back in Paris when Marius (Eddie Redmayne) spots the young lady and instantly falls in love. Marius is a very involved in the student movement and will soon help start the French Revolution. Valjean, Javert and Cosette will all become involved in the event that will change the history of France.

Directed by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), "Les Mis" is a passionate, rousing, extremely emotional and ultimately uneven experience. It is highly satisfying, but because so much of the film is so good, the parts that aren't are even more egregious and annoying.

Hugh Jackman has been spending a lot of time performing on Broadway, shifting back and forth between stage and screen. He clearly has the chops to handle a musical and does a great job as Prisoner 24601. He goes through a lot, experiences a lot and changes a lot throughout the course of the story. This may be one of the biggest understatements ever, but to go into too much detail would spoil some of the surprise for people unfamiliar with the story. Let's just say he faces many obstacles and challenges.

But as Valjean climbs each mountain and faces each challenge, you always get a feeling for his inner conscience. Jackman subtly shows us that even when Valjean is doing something wrong, he is at great pains when doing it. And he always tries to do something to compensate for the past error.

Russell Crowe is another matter entirely. He doesn't have the skill or chops to carry the musical part of his role as Javert, the extremely tenacious gendarme. Everything he sings sounds the same which is problematic because he has to show us the emotions his character is living through. He pretty much glares at people throughout the film, rarely giving us insight into his character.

Crowe deserves a lot of credit for going out of his comfort zone, but the filmmakers should have stayed away from the star's pull and sought out a performer who could do the role justice.

Remember when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted the Oscars? There seemed to be two general thoughts about their work; 1. James Franco looked uncomfortable and uneasy throughout most of the show and 2. Surprise that Anne Hathaway could sing. Her performance as Fantine, the single mother working in a factory to earn money for her child, erases the question mark and any doubt. Anne Hathaway CAN sing.

I have only seen the musical performed live once and didn't remember that her big moment came so early in the story, but the moment she appears on screen, get your hankies out. Her role is tragic and moving and as she is singing "I Dream a Dream", you can see the pain and emotion in her face and hear it in every word she utters. Her character's life ultimately steers Jean Valjean towards his destiny, so it makes sense and needs to happen pretty early to drive the rest of the story.

Amanda Seyfried (who was also in "Mamma Mia"), Eddie Redmayne, who plays her true love, Samantha Banks who plays Eponine and Aaron Tveit who plays Enjorlas are all good, but when you consider the power of Hathaway's performance and the bravado of Jackman's, these younger actors pale in comparison. They all play a part in sparking the French Revolution, which closes the film.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter play the Thernadiers, shady inn-keepers who seem included to provide a bit of comic relief. Normally, this type of thing wouldn't work very well, but their big song "Master of the House" is one of the most memorable and helps to compensate for the obvious nature of their characters.

Watching a film musical is a very different thing from watching the same musical performed on stage. It should be a different thing. When you are watching a play, you are looking at the entire stage and as characters move around, your attention is directed to them. As they move back and forth, your eye follows them. Sometimes, you may be watching a scene between two characters at opposite sides of the stage. But the stage is always there and your eye is always moving. When you watch a filmed version of the same play, the filmmakers direct your attention to the focused performer with camera movement, editing, transitions and more. Your eye will process less because the filmmakers have already done this for you. Naturally, watching a live play is to a movie what reading a book is to watching a film adaptation of that book. When you read a book, your mind processes a lot of information and paints pictures for you, guiding you through the story. Sometimes, reading a scary story is a lot more effective than watching a horror story because the images your mind conjures are a lot scarier (and real to you) than what the filmmakers can come up with. Watching a live play is a very different thing because you have to decide where to look, what to concentrate on. You can also look at the whole picture.

In "Les Miserables", Tom Hooper gives us an intimate view of the story. "Les Mis" isn't known for great choreography anyway, so Hooper smartly concentrates on the actors as they perform.

He has also gone one step further; the actors sing live throughout the film. In most musicals, the singers record the songs in a studio and then perform the roles to a playback of the song. Watching "Les Mis" is a very different experience. You can see the words coming out of the actor's mouths, feel their power, and it also makes the performances more intimate and meaningful.

"Les Miserables" is an emotional, moving experience. And a fitting adaptation of one of the longest running musicals in history. It has some problems, but all-in-all, this is one of the most satisfying films of the year.
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M. BullionsReviewed in the United States on January 1, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A cinematic and emotional wonder; a film for the ages.
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You know I went to see "Les Miserables" on Christmas Day. You know I convinced family and friends to not get together for dinner on Christmas evening, as was the tradition, because seeing this film was more important. I've been waiting to see "Les Mis" for months, damnit, and I wasn't about to wait any longer. I was ready to see something phenomenal. Something that would be a sucker punch of emotion...and a chance to see some of my favorite actors in a film like I've never seen before.

"Les Miserables" is unlike any film musical I've ever seen. The level of emotion is unmatched. The performances are out of this world. The story is ambitious, and the scope is huge. It's at once a very personal story about its various characters, but at the same time, these people are singing for a generation, that has fascinating parallels to events going on today. It's an incredible feat that I didn't think could be committed to film so well.

Director Tom Hooper certainly had the courage of his convictions. A film adaptation of Cameron Mackintosh and Claude Michel Schonberg's beloved stage musical "Les Miserables" had been in development hell since the mid 1980s. The pieces for a successful film adaptation never quite came together. A non-musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman came out in 1998, but that film was sub-par at best.

Hooper assembled a cast that doesn't seem like the best fit for a musical, including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, none of which, to my knowledge, are trained singers. He then decided that these actors, as well as everyone else in the cast, would sing live, instead of lip-synching to studio-prerecorded tracks. I had not known that movie musicals typically did it this way, and that singing live was a new and scary thing. This element would heighten emotion for the audience. This idea is superb and will show to be a game-changer for movie musicals. Each actor's performance is more intimate and personal than they would have been otherwise. Hooper really wants the viewer to connect emotionally with these characters, and for the most part, we connect with these people deeply.

"Les Mis" follows Jean Valjean (Jackman), a man who was jailed for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family - five years for the theft, and thereafter for subsequent attempts to escape. He breaks his parole, and police inspector Javert (Crowe) dedicates his life to imprisoning Valjean again. Valjean comes across Fantine (Hathaway), an unwed mother who, after unjustly losing her job, is degraded to the point of no return, being forced to sell her hair, her teeth, her body and her dignity. Valjean promises Fantine that he will raise her daughter Cosette as his own, in her absence. Valjean then saves Cosette from the Thenardiers(Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, pairing up in their second movie musical), neglectful guardians and scheming inkeepers, and the story picks up years later, where Cosette is a young woman (Amanda Seyfried), living mostly in peace. A young revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with her. The Thenardier's destitute biological daughter Eponine has a hopeless and unrequited love for Marius. These young characters dive headfirst into what would become a very important part of the French Revolution.

The story of the French Revolution, as depicted in the film, is so reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street protests that went on last year - a group of young idealists looking for a better tomorrow. They're willing to die in the name of a future. They're extremely passionate and exuberant. There are protests, except, you know, they're all sung.

Yes, it's all sung. Les Miserables is two hours and forty minutes of song. There's no real spoken dialogue the entire way through. Every minute is sung live as well. And if this bothers you, please skip "Les Mis" and enjoy watching something like "Twilight" or "Jack Reacher". Tom Hooper made this film a game-changer for the way a movie-musical is supposed to work. Lip-synching a pre-recorded studio version seems economical, but today, can allow for auto-tuning and editing a singer's voice. It doesn't feel personal. The voices in "Les Mis" sound raw and real. The actors sang live onset with earpieces playing piano accompaniment, with a 70-piece orchestra being added in in post production. The music sounds extraordinary. There sure as hell isn't any auto-tuning going on.

For example, take Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream". At this point in the story, we don't know Fantine very well, but we see the struggle that she's put through. She's at her lowest point. Hathaway half-belts and half-sobs the iconic song, the entire thing being filmed in one take. It's an extremely emotional performance that will bring any person with a heart, to tears.

Criticism that I've been hearing of the film mostly revolves around the performances of Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman, as Javert and Valjean. I think both of these guys did fantastic jobs, quite frankly. Crowe isn't the best singer in the world, but his voice fits the part of Javert very well. As for Jackman, well, it could be argued that he carried the entire film. I think he did a splendid job; the role of Jean Valjean is a giant undertaking, and I think he nailed it.

However, the real excellence of this film lies in the supporting cast. Everybody is perfectly cast, but particularly Samantha Barks in the role of Eponine. She played the same character in the 25th Anniversary performance of Les Miserables, only two years ago. One small criticism; my favorite part of Eponine's solo (and theme song to self-loathing masochists everywhere) "On My Own", the beginning part, is cut entirely. However, once you see what Barks does with this song it's easily forgiven.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, who look like they're in "Sweeney Todd 2", are great comic relief as the Thenardiers. Cohen is the only cast member in this Paris-set film who sings in a French accent, however... I find that strange. Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit are perfect as Marius and his colleague Enjolras. Redmayne's "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables", near the end of the film, will make you cry. His voice goes to extraordinary places, and in such an emotional number, where he's telling the story of his friends who are no longer with him, this is a place where the live singing truly shines.

The live singing, itself, is a huge undertaking, cinematically. Director Tom Hooper certainly had alot at stake with this project, however, there are still things that he could have done better. There are so many close-ups in the film. While they work for solos like "I Dreamed A Dream" and "Empty Chairs", they don't work for others. I also kind of feel like Hooper used the fish-eye camera lens a little too often, but these are inconsequential criticisms that don't make the film any less powerful.

I hate it when people applaud in a movie theater. I find it trite and kind of pointless, unless you're at the world premiere of the movie, with the director and actors present. However, I'm not ashamed to say that "Les Miserables" brought me to tears no less than five times. I was completely enthralled by each actor's performance, and the applause that the entire theater gave at the end was completely appropriate and well-deserved. I wanted to watch it again the minute it ended, and for a nearly three hour long film, I think that's a pretty high compliment. Don't miss it.

Grade: A+
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Shannen MurphyReviewed in the United States on April 25, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
I heard the people sing, and was never the same.
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I'm twenty-seven years late to Les Miserables, the musical. I'll admit it. I wasn't interested until the movie was getting press. It looked really cool, and the likelihood of me ever seeing it on stage seemed slim and not something I really, hugely wanted.

So I went with my friend, who'd already seen the stage show and the movie (she went before I did).

I can honestly say that there are three narratives that have altered the course of my life, and they're the Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, and now, most recently, Les Mis.

As a rule, I don't do tragedy. I don't do stories where everybody dies. I refuse to do Titanic for that very reason.

But dear god, am I glad that I made the exception for this one.

The Movie is an enormous, beautiful mix of the fantastic musical with snippets of canon from the book thrown in. Bahorel's back, though he never made the musical, Enjolras and Grantaire die side-by-side as in the brick, and nobody's quite as romanticized by the movie as they are by the musical, and I love it. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction.

Russell Crowe will always be my Javert, for example. He brings a depth to the man that can't be done on stage. I love stage!Javert, I do -- Norm Lewis is fantastic and rigid as iron in the 25th anniversary special, for example -- but Crowe, Crowe gives me a sadder Javert, a Javert who is falling even before he seems to realize it himself. And he is /gentler/, too; when he tells Fantine, "I have heard such protestations/Every day for twenty years/Let's have no more explanations/Save your breath, save your tears," he almost seems to pity her. Stage!Javert, on the other hand, is often openly disdainful with these lines, often emphasizing that last word as though the idea of the "whore" crying sickens him because she is a criminal and in his eyes deserves it and should take it without weeping,

I don't mourn stage-Javert, I pity him. But Crowe's Javert made me hurt for him, and he remains one of my favorite parts of the movie.

Anne Hathaway may not be the most vocally powerful Fantine we've ever had, but the starkness of Fantine's plight makes for brilliant cinema in ways that, again, the stage show can't. Reordering "I Dreamed a Dream" to come after "Lovely Ladies" is an inspired choice, because it renders the song to be part of the very lowest, darkest point in Fantine's tragedy.

Moving forward, the "barricade boys" are absolutely brilliant. With Killian Donnelly (a former Enjolras on stage) as Combeferre and Broadway star Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, we're in very good hands for Les Amis de l'ABC. Tveit brings a brilliant physicality to the part of Enjolras, and his facing his mortality in "Drink With Me" (which, unfortunately enough, cuts out Grantaire's fairly pivotal verse to that effect) with nothing more than a few sorrowful looks is absolutely brilliant. I love Enjolras more than practically any other fictional character, and Tveit is one of my favorite people who've played him.

Many of the barricade boys are even better upon rewatching -- I didn't fall in love with Combeferre until my third viewing, when I realized how much he loves the rest of the Amis, how willing he is to take care of all of them in his way. He's their arsenal (alluded to when he is double-wielding pistols on the barricade) and their guide and dies with a comforting hand on Joly's arm. Feuilly is also wonderful, and the friendship between Courfeyrac and Gavroche is absolutely heartbreaking, with Courf sobbing openly when Gavroche is murdered.

But most understated and most beautiful, I think, is George Blagden as Grantaire, the group's cynic and drunk. As I mentioned before, Grantaire's verse in "Drink With Me" was cut, which is a pretty major piece of characterization for both him and for, in many stage productions, his dynamic with Enjolras. In the brick, it's stated flat out that Grantaire worships Enjolras, and Blagden's Grantaire makes it clear with every movement, every glance, from beginning to end. He captures the essence of the cynic with only one thing to believe in, and I could write reams of analysis on the subject.

Cinematically, the film is almost perfect. The only issue I had is the overuse of background blurring in "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." But that's literally, along with the missing DWM verse, the only flaw in the movie. I'm a film major, and I can only dream of ever making a movie this perfect, and this apropos to the time it's been released.

You see, we're, globally, in a time of intense political, economic, and social upheaval. We, in the US specifically, are a culture in flux. A culture due, I think, for a few revolutions. Without Les Mis, I wouldn't have become nearly as passionate for change as I am, and I certainly wouldn't have sat down and decided to read a book with 2600 pages in it for fun and then proceed to start a project where I give my summer to Enlightenment-through-post-1848 political discourse. Les Mis opened me up to a whole new universe of possibility for my future, and I think it has for a lot of its new fans, even though it's so solidly set in the past. I have to call forth the final lines of "Finale," here -- "Will you join in our crusade?/Who will be strong and stand with me?/Somewhere beyond the barricade/is there a world you long to see?/Do you hear the people sing?/Say do you hear the distant drums?/It is the future that we bring when tomorrow comes!" The story asks us to look at the world around us.

And, when we find it wanting, stand up and do something about it.

And that's a message I can throw myself behind wholeheartedly. The future doesn't just come; we make it, we shape it into what it is -- that's the whole point, in the end, of the story. With love, and because of love, we are strong enough to fight for the future we want and deserve.

Maybe we'll fail. Maybe we'll only have reward in Heaven. And maybe we'll succeed.

But we'll never know which if we never try.
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BR-AZ'ONAReviewed in the United States on November 19, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Spectacular Adaptation!
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Who knew these stars could sing! Every person perfectly cast. The scenery, special effects, the writing... it is a stunning and spectacular adaptation! No cost spared, no corners cut. Thank You!!! I still have the songs running thru my head.
De Edward GreerReviewed in the United States on February 28, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Why should I write another review, when to me the best reviews for this film are so spot-on terrific they can choke me up to the point of tears all by themselves. Instead, I would like to focus on some things that I haven't seen mentioned yet. But first, a bit of background. To begin, I do not cry at sad movies. I will sometimes tear up at happy ones. But I have never cried throughout an entire movie, or at least 90% of it. Yes, the emotion of this film is unmatched. It is astonishingly intense throughout: electrifying, appalling, tragic, remarkably eye-opening, and finally, a most exquisite, triumphant victory of goodness and love over all that is not.

The plot and story line have been so well covered by the other reviewers, that I need add nothing. However, the characters, and the cast who play those roles are, with very few exceptions, breathtaking. What I would like to add in this review is a bit of a comparison with the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Miserables. Much has been said about the "live" singing, and in addition, its (opinionated) below par quality as well. Conversely, I was amazed at how magnificent it was! I don't believe that someone who has never been in a recording studio can remotely appreciate how difficult it is to sing "live" like this cast did and make it sound good. And as one reviewer pointed out, the combination of camera closeness and live singing allowed for magnificent articulation, where every word was clearly heard, and even felt, something so often absent in today's movies.

Now the characters, bearing in mind that virtually the entire film is sung: Ann Hathaway was magnificent as Fantine, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius may have been the best of all. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was a performance for the ages. Samantha Barks was breathtaking as Eponine, and played that role in both the Concert and the film. So here may be a good place for the comparison I mentioned earlier, and perhaps the best place to begin is with Javert. In the Concert, Javert was played by Norm Lewis, a brilliant baritone who also sings with great expression. And although he can sing dramatically better in a professional sense than Russell Crowe, I have to give the nod to Crowe. In fact I thought he was fantastic. Maybe his voice doesn't compare with Lewis, and although Lewis's expression was superb, it was Crowe's acting-singing combination that caused a synergistic outpouring, and made his performance awesome.

Now to Hugh Jackman. As one reviewer said, he was "splendid...and it could be argued carried the entire film." Except...I had seen the Concert before the movie. A British tenor, Alfie Boe, played Jean Valjean. I am very far indeed from being an expert, but I now honestly believe he has the greatest male voice I have ever heard. And I will tell you exactly why. I think many would agree that "Bring Him Home" is one of the quintessential musical numbers in the film. Alfie Boe is one of the very, very few tenors who can sing with both rich, full volume, and a magnificent falsetto as well, with which he can liltingly vocalize an extremely high note, very softly, and with perfect vibrato. To me, the last line of "Bring Him Home" is perfect for this soft, emotional finish, and his standing ovation after this at the Concert seemed unending.

This should not detract, but actually add to Jackman's terrific performance. To sing "Bring Him Home" the way Jackman did was more difficult, not less! And it should be a given that Jackman had one of the most difficult roles to play, ever. At the beginning, it truly looked as if Jackman was "standing in his grave."

There is not much I can add to the performances of Colm Wilkinson as the loving, life-changing Bishop, while Amanda Seyfried as Cosette is a lovely soprano with spectactular range. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for little Gavroche, played by Daniel Huttlestone. Perhaps the one negative thought I had was that in the Concert, Matt Lucas as Thenardier and Jenny Galloway as his Madame were a bit stronger than Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham in the identical roles in the film. The movie, however, was able to capture the hilarious antics of the duo's pickpocketing methods that the Concert could not do.

This was a movie that director Tom Hooper took considerable risks to bring us delightfully new things as well. In addition to being entirely sung, I thought it was a bit of creative magic to use the same 4 or 5 melodic lines to create all of the songs, just with different lyrics.

I hate to use an old cliché, "paradigm shift," that in the nineties went so viral as to become virtually meaningless, but to me, this represents a true paradigm shift in filmmaking. It is years ahead of its time and should become the standard that many later films strive for. It was The Best Picture of the Year. Period.
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SmoochieReviewed in the United States on November 5, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Musical movie
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It's a classic musical that I everyone should watch at least once or be like my husband who watches it all the time. Plus he still listens to the soundtrack constantly. It's a good movie.
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