Posted by: greercn | January 15, 2013

Les Miserables

Yes, I cried and sniffed. I can sob through Bambi’s mother being killed so, clearly, I can be profoundly affected by anything with pathos.

But half the Stratford Picturehouse weeping through key scenes? Applauding at the end? Fans of the Brit stiff upper lip will be shocked and appalled.

You either love or hate musicals, as a form. With  Tom Hooper’s new film version of “Les Miserables”, even people who hate musicals are loving this movie and reacting strongly.

This may be the end of Brit civilisation, in its traditional guise.

Nicknamed “The Glums”, “Les Mis” was a great love of my parents. I have been to the theatre to see it a few times – usually with friends who are visiting London and want to go – and I’ve never cried at it before, although I always gasp when the soldiers and barricades spring out of nowhere. Cameron Mackintosh knows how to do that big spectacle thing.

Just in case you know nothing about the plot, Victor Hugo’s book wrote about five interlinked stories, set after the French Revolution.

Hugh Jackman is incredible as Jean Valjean. He’s a terrific singer and absolutely extraordinary in every scene. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that Jean Valjean couldn’t have been carrying the Tricolour French flag in 1815 as the Bourbon flag was used until 1830. My picky pedant mode was disarmed.

Anne Hathaway totally deserves great praise for a moving take on Fantine. Wow, she is superb.

Russell Crowe may not be the best singer in the cast, but his portrayal of Javert provides the emotional glue that holds the film together. I’d argue that he is the best actor here.

Samantha Barks is truly fabulous as Eponine and young Daniel Huttlestone is a star of the present and future with the fresh breath he brings to Gavroche.

The first half zips by even though the 157 minutes never feel flabby with wasted moments.

Maybe I am too used to big effects in war films, but those barricade confrontation scenes never seemed as wonderful as they did in the theatre. And the CGI Paris feels a little fuzzy and contrived.

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius failed to engage my emotions the way the people in the first half did. But Russell Crowe kept finding a new level of excellence that kept my attention.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter have the only comic moments, but these feel like they are from another film. I kept thinking of Scorsese’s “Hugo” or the funnier bits of Hooper’s “The King’s Speech”, as when Bonham Carter was bouncing on Colin Firth’s chest. Or Tim Burton’s recent take on “Alice”?

But it’s a great big epic with live singing and loads of reverence for the source material and the plight of the unlucky and poor. Yes, there is a great deal of relevance to modern times, here.

So, I loved it. But I am easily affected by human suffering and moved by much too much. It will sweep every award it’s up for as . You may love it or hate it or be indifferent to it. Still, it’s rare to see so much that is huge-scale and serious historical drama done with so much zeal and class. When light relief feels out of place, you are in the presence of greatness.

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