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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Movie Review: Les Miserables

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review",
My one sentence review of the 2012 film version of Les Miserables is that this is a beautifully intimate musical film with some major casting issues but still definitely worth seeing.

I LOVE musical films.  Some of my favorite films are Moulin Rouge, Across the Universe, and Nightmare Before Christmas. I just love them when they're done right, but they're hard to do and not come across as a Disney film.

The difference, however, between Les Miserables and these other films is that the others are very fantastical.  There is a veneer over them that makes the willing suspension of disbelief easier because they're not quite as in your face and intimate, so you can separate yourself from them a little more easily and buy into the storyline.

This film version of Les Miserables, however, is incredibly intimate and raw.  There is definitely no veneer.  There's hardly a movie screen; you feel like you're breathing the same air.  The willing suspension of disbelief is accomplished effortlessly through the purity of the shooting and the organic and unstrained acting.

The singing was all done during shooting instead of in a sound room, so the acting is carried out beautifully through their voices.  There are long, uncut, almost awkwardly inmate songs that allow the actors to skillfully surpass any musical bias that you may have and touch your heart.  The shooting style with its wide-angle lens closeups creates an intimacy that confronts you.  It doesn't tell you what to feel, but it asks you to determine for yourself what you're feeling.  It's brilliantly shrewd.

I could go on and on about the beauty of this film.  The set design, cinematography, costume, editing et. al. is all perfect.  You can see why they decided to shoot the film in such a raw fashion.  Cliche alert, but you're definitely transported there.

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", "Jean Valjean", Hugh Jackman
After all of this praise it pains me to say that, in my very humble opinion, their only two mistakes in this film were colossal overestimations in the casting of two brilliant actors: Russell Crowe (cast as Javert) and Hugh Jackman (cast as Jean Valjean).  I LOVE these two men.  They're brilliant actors and just gorgeous; I was thrilled to hear they were cast in these roles....but then I heard them sing.
"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", Javert, "Russell Crowe"
Source - Universal Pictures

Now these guys do sing and have done well with their voices before.  But for such large roles, I don't think that their voices were polished enough for the task at hand.  Their acting was spot-on - perfection - so many layers and confliction and purity.  I even enjoyed watching Russell Crowe the most because he had the most layers and conflict in his character.

But their voices were a just huge nasal nightmare.  Just awful.  (Others have told me that they liked them, but I seriously can't see how.)  I'm sure they were coached, but there's not enough vibrato in the world to cover singing out of your nose.

I think if people were honest with themselves, they'd admit that they want to like Hugh Jackman's singing voice more than they actually do think that it warrants their admiration.  In the film he mostly sounded like he had a head cold, and Russell Crowe sounded like the only thing he listens to on the radio is early 80s rock (but only when he's drunk).  (Evidently he has sung in a rock band for the past 30 or so years, but I doubt you own any of his albums.)

There are a few times where their singing was good (Crowe's mostly when he had to sing strong songs), and at those points I found myself cheering them on.  But for the most part, I just had to try to ignore that it bothered me so much.

"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", Cosette, Marius
Cosette and Marius - These two {{sigh}}...just perfect.
Despite those very large flaws, all of the other casting was literally perfect.  At first I was quite confused as to why Anne Hathaway was cast as Fantine (I guess I just don't like her), but then I heard her sing.  Wow, she has a beautiful voice, and her acting was perfection (overuse of the word, I agree).  And there could be no one better cast than Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.  She was just perf----wonderful and amazing, too.

I could go through the entire cast list and say of all of them that they were just perfectly cast (well, except for the priest, but that was a small role), which is why I'm just dumbfounded as to why Jean Valjean and Javert, the two MAIN CHARACTERS, were so poorly cast (by musical standards).
"Les Miserables", review, "Les Miserables film review", "Master of the house"
Talk about perfectly cast, Helena Bonham Carter (I always love her) and Sacha Baron Cohen as the innkeepers was just genius.  These two were hilarious, and their timing was impeccable.  You loved them and hated them at the same time.

I could go on because there is so much to say about this film, story, actors, etc., but I will just restate my original one-line review: this is a beautifully intimate musical film with some major casting issues but still definitely worth seeing.

ETA: Don't hate me.  These are simply opinions about a motion picture.  Love you.  ;)


  1. Thank you Annie! I was really battling with myself over whether I wanted to go see this movie or wait for it to come out on pay per view. Always loved this story, was delighted to see Amanda Sifried and Anne Hathaway cast. I've heard Crowe and Jackman sing before, it concerned me. Maybe Gerard Butler would have been a better choice? Either way, can't wait to see it now!

  2. That's intersting. Both Russell Crowe AND Hugh Jackman have musical backgrounds. Crowe has been lead singer in a rock band for nearly 30 years, and Jackman has been on Broadway for years. He even won a Tony for his role in the musical The Boy From Oz. Both are pretty accomplished musically.

    But then I haven't seen the movie yet. I might feel the same way after I do!

  3. Wow, I should've researched before I wrote! I see the rock band definitely. I'll edit.

    1. Alright...assumptions righted. ;)

  4. Funny, but I did not like Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Her acting was fine, but I hated her singing. I could handle Russell Crowe's singing, although it's not something I would want to listen to often. I enjoyed Hugh Jackman, singing and acting. Loved the movie--one of the best.


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