Movie review: Les MisÚrables
Epic musical: Top Hooper's production of Les MisÚrables.
In Les Miserables, Anne Hathaway's powerful rendition of I Dreamed a Dream sweeps you through every emotion under the sun and delivers an exquisite, heart-wrenching performance that should put her in the running for an Oscar, if not seal the deal itself.
Making it even more profound is that Hathaway performs it all in one take a single close-up, where the entire screen is basically just her face.
The feeling of watching I Dreamed a Dream somewhat sums up the feeling of watching Les Miserables.
It's a rollercoaster of emotion, pulling you from tragedy with Hathaway's Fantine, to rousing camaraderie, to the many forms of love, unrequited or not, all set against the epic backdrop of 19th-century France.
Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has commendably been very faithful to the musical, which is originally based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel, although it means the film runs at a huge 158 minutes.
The length will test the patience of some perhaps not familiar with the musical, also because there's barely a line that's not sung.
But whether you love or hate Les Mis (and it's sure to get support on both sides) you cannot deny it is ambitious filmmaking, filled with astonishing performances. Leading the cast are two Australians - Hugh Jackman's honourable former inmate Jean Valjean, who breaks his parole, takes a new identity and turns his life around, and Russell Crowe as the ruthless police inspector Javert, who's hellbent on tracking him down.
Another one likely to get an Oscar nod, Jackman essentially drives the movie as Jean Valjean, with his story linking him to Fantine, her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and setting the stage well for the rest of the film.
Crowe, while obviously not trained vocally like some of the others and is no Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia he hits the notes, although his best moments are created in tense exchanges with Jackman. Likely aiding the actors was Hooper's choice to record all their on-set performances as the ones featured in the film, creating an environment similar to a live stage show.
However, he also takes audiences on a thrilling cinematic journey across the picturesque French countryside, to the opulent architecture of Paris and the city's dingy laneways, below where an uprising brews.
Just as things are getting too dark, Sacha Baron Cohenand Helena Bonham Carterprovide welcome comic relief as the cockney-accented thieves Thenardier and Madame Thenardierand seem to be having a ball doing so.
Hooperfavours close-ups for the majority of the dramatic solos, something quite different to what you would experience in a theatre. The sheer number of the solos do make them quite distracting, although their confronting nature does work well.
An ambitious, beautiful adaptation, watching Les Miserables is an emotionally draining, often challenging experience, but one where it's hard not to walk away impressed.
Les Miserables is released in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day.
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Iconic image: Isabelle Allen stars as Young Cosette in Universal Pictures' Les Miserables.