Sometimes there is a film that is so much different from anything else you’ve seen the rest of the year that you fall in love with it. Les Misérables is that movie this year. Directed by Tom Hooper the film, based off of the stage musical based off Victor Hugo’s novel fails to disappoint. With a timeless story, amazing acting and singing, and beautiful cinematography Les Mis is a contemporary classic.
Based on the July 1832 revolution in France as told by Victor Hugo the story follows Jean Valjean, a man who stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, and Javert a police inspector who has chased Valjean for years after he broke his parole. After being granted a new life from a kind priest, Valjean changes his name and becomes a successful factory owner and mayor of a small town. When he unknowingly condemns one of his workers to a life on the street he promises that he will take care of her daughter. Javert continues his ruthless search for Valjean through the years, all the way up until a group of young boys attempt to start a new revolution. Valjean’s adopted daughter Cosette falls for one of the leaders, Marius, and because of Valjean’s new involvement in the revolution to protect Marius he crosses paths with Javert for the last time. The story is a timeless combination of love, revolutions, and rebirth. It is good as you can get. Victor Hugo knew his stuff.
A lot was made during the promotion of Les Misérables that all the singing was live, the outcome was heavy, raw emotions at times. “I Dreamed a Dream” usually a soaring piece was a somber, tear-jerker. However, the group numbers were nothing different, beautiful and well done, but not unheard. I presume this is because as group numbers they couldn’t experiment and change as much as was possible in the solos. Regardless alls songs sounded fantastic. Russell Crowe’s performance was amazing, his rendition of “Stars” has been receiving a lot of flax, but I disagree. Any complaints about his performance is just someone reaching for a complaint. Anne Hathaway all but deserves the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (truthfully I say best Actress, she stole the show) for her beautiful, heart-wrenching performance. Jackman’s take on Valjean was brilliant as well.
What really stood out in Les Misérables was the cinematography. I absolutely loved the direction that Tom Hooper and Danny Cohen chose to shoot the film with. Everything was fantastically shot. The use of wide angles and close-ups gave such depth to a film, allowing actor’s faces to show emotion and show the world as well. Most of the songs were shot handheld as well, which adds to the raw emotion present in all the singing. The handheld is in no way distracting, thanks in large parts to the wide angles. The coloring and lighting are very natural, bouncing between golds for daytimes with the revolutionaries and cold blues for Fantine’s and Javert’s solos. The style may not be for everyone, but Tom Hooper is sticking to the guns he primed during The King’s Speech.
Les Misérables is a beautiful film. Beautiful is the only word I can think to describe it. The film just flows in a way many cannot even imagine. The cinematography is just gorgeous and the singing is equal. Tom Hooper and his team have reinvented a classic musical and upped the level of what consumers expect from future musical films. And again, Anne Hathaway is just amazing. Pure amazing.