Adapting Broadway musicals is always a tricky business. For every critical and box office success like Mamma Mia! and Grease, there is also a flop like Rock of Ages or Sweeney Todd. The older and/or more popular the musical, the bigger the risk.
Whether Les Miserables will be a box office success has yet to be determined, but it certainly lives up to expectations set by the almost-30-year-old musical. With the grand production design and wonderful cast singing the songs fans have come to love, and living author Victor Hugo’s dark story to perfection.
In 1815 France, prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is granted parole after 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After finding he cannot escape the shame of his crime, and after a fortuitous meeting with The Bishop of Digne, escapes parole and, eight years later, assumes the identity of Monsieur Madeline, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of the small town, where he meets Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who turns to prostitution after being fired from the factory. From there, Valjean agrees to care for Fantine’s daughter Cosette when Fantine dies in a hospital, only to find that police officer Javier (Russell Crowe) has been chasing Valjean for eight years.
Nine years later, Cosette (now played by Amanda Seyfried) has grown, and fallen in love with young student Marius (Eddie Redmayne) on the eve of the French Revolution. While Valjean tries to protect Cosette, Javier is getting closer to his trail, and the revolution threatens to change the world around them forever.
Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and screenwriter William Nicholson (Gladiator) brings the world of author Victor Hugo and playwrights Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil to life in a truly stunning fashion. Building upon the story, music and lyrics that have become timeless treasures on their own, 19th Century France jumps from the page to the screen with stunning sets and costumes, and a larger than life feeling that cannot be replicated on stage.
Visuals aside, the film would simply not be possible without a cast, and this film has that in spades. Jackman, Crowe, Redmayne and Seyfried are incredible performers, and together make magic that cannot be rivaled. Adding in the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the notorious inkeeper and his wife, as well as Samantha Barks as their daughter Eponine, and you have a pool of talent that fans couldn’t have asked for. The true treasure of the cast is Anne Hathaway, who has won countless awards for her role as Fantine, which was made famous by stage actress Patti LuPone. She has been nominated again at the Golden Globes, and an Oscar nod is almost a guarantee. Hathaway is magnificent, even though she’s not on screen for very long, and this could very well take her career to even more impressive heights.
FINAL VERDICT: Whether you have seen a stage production or not, Les Miserables is a masterful piece of cinema not soon to be rivaled by any film this year. Fans will be moved by the flawless adaptation, while moviegoers will be swept away by the stunning production and amazing performances. Les Mis is truly an experience to be felt in the theater.