Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
First off, I want to do a mini review for all the non-musical fans out there: Musicals aren’t for everyone. Furthermore, it is my opinion that “Les Miserables”, while being the most internationally well regarded musical in history, is also the most inaccessible musical for most novices. So, I cannot in good conscious recommend that anybody, who is not already a fan of musicals, or this particular sweeping and grandiose musical, go see “Les Miserables”.
With that said, the following is my review for the people who are probably going to see “Les Miserables”, despite anything that I have to say:
Assuming that you are already familiar with the epic identity crisis story of Jean Valjean in 19th-century France, I will be skipping the synopsis rundown all together. “Les Miserables” features a star studded cast, the likes of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, in the role he was born to play and is absolutely superb in, Russell Crowe playing Javert, Valjean’s adversary, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, who is also quite excellent here, showing off her exceptional singing voice as she nails “I Dreamed a Dream”, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, who add some much needed levity as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche, who despite his age, has one of the best singing voices of the lot. OK, it’s true that not everybody here can sing, i.e. Seyfried who seems very pitchy and Redmayne, who has one of the weirdest singing voice I’ve ever heard. But Jackman, who is clearly in his comfort zone and can sing this musical under any condition (even waist deep in feces) and Hathaway and Crowe are so strong here that the others lack of stage talent can be forgiven.
The one true nagging problem here (much like Peter Jackson choosing to shoot “The Hobbit” in 48 fps) is director Tom Hooper’s choice to record all the singing live, which creates a very distracting atmosphere throughout. Allow me to explain: What Hooper actually did was fit all the actors with earpieces, which fed them the music, so only the actors could really hear the music and sing along. The problem with this is, that within the first ten minutes there arises a disjointed feeling when pertaining to the audio, making Jackman, Crowe and Hathaway all sound like they are singing either out of key or simply singing along with a track in the same way you might sing along to your favorite song in the car. Also, because maybe live acoustics aren’t picked up as clearly as acoustics recorded in a studio and dubbed in later, at times the orchestra (which seemed to be layered in during post production) seemed to be lowered to the point where I felt that I wasn’t getting that surround sound cinema quality that I’m used to hearing in a theater. Whatever it was, when listening and watching this film, it is very noticeable that something is audibly off as a direct result of the vocals having been recorded live.
Hooper, who is sure to get Academy recognition for his masterful direction, constructs a beautifully shot, to say the least, adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel turned musical. When Hooper shows the dingy slumps of France, the scenery is so gritty that you can smell it. But aside from Hooper’s work on the visuals, the fact that this film contains the best wardrobe and set design of any movie to come out of 2012, should not be overlooked.
Final Thought: Is this the best picture of the year (a la “King’s Speech” material)? No. Would this be considered as one of the top ten must see films of the year? Probably not. As great of a story as “Les Miserables” is, it’s not without its faults, and will undoubtedly overstay its welcome with its unnaturally prolonged 15 minute conclusion; but if you are a fan there is a lot to appreciate here.
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