Review: Les Misérables

Can you hear the people sing, singing the song of box office and Golden Globe success…

Les Mis has long achieved critical acclaim on the West End, but clearly the bright lights and matinee performances weren’t enough, because it now has an encore on screen. Director Tom Hooper has assembled an acting and vocal masterclass with talent like Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.

Jackman and Hathway have already scooped up Golden Globes along with Oscar nominations. It is easy to see why: both have exceptional voices and an incredible ability to act. Hathaway perfectly captures the delicate and vulnerable Fantine, delivering a truly moving version of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Jackman too expertly encompasses the haunted Valjean’s complex personality and shows his lesser seen on screen talent: a powerful singing voice. Since his opening number at the 81st Academy Awards I have been hungry to see more of the man behind the claws, and more importantly to hear his sultry tones once again.

The vocals in the film are truly outstanding; that is, until you get to Russell Crowe as Javet. Crowe is undoubtedly a good actor – he has moved me to tears as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator – but singing? When I heard it announced I was dubious at best, especially when he is alongside such strong voices as those of Hathaway and Jackman. Having seen the trailers I was still not consoled – indeed, I was more concerned. The opening song with Jackman was hardly inspiring either; in fact, opposing the two voices almost seemed cruel. However, as the film progresses his voice starts to grow on you; it offers a different tone to the powerful, more traditional musical voices the film has to offer. Crowe has a ‘spoken’ kind of voice, sing-speaking more than singing. His acting, however, is certainly up to standard – he really brings Javet alive before the audience and his final song is deeply moving.

Les Miserables … Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

Another unlikely name to appear in Les Mis is Sacha Baron Cohen, an actor for whom I have little regard and would have put up the barricades just to keep out. In the film he plays the crooked innkeeper Thénardiers, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as his wife. I was so ready to slate him for another tacky performance full of poor taste, but I can’t…I feel more conflicted than Javet. His rendition of ‘Master of the House’ is delightfully entertaining and he actually seems perfectly suited to the role, something I never thought I’d say. The double act of Carter and Cohen seems like a match made in heaven and brings a great deal of humor to the film, despite their mistreatment of Corvette…I mean Cosette.

Although no one seems capable of deciding which way to pronounce Cosette’s name, Seyfried is certainly capable of being the character. Her voice hits high notes as effortlessly as Thénardiers can rob people. Her duet with Eddie Redmayne on ‘A Heart Full of Love’ is touching and worthy of the West End. Redmayne too steps up as Marius and revives the notion of young love with acting to be proud of.

Even the set is exceptional, with turbulent scenes of the revolution at the barricade, as well as beautiful rural France; even the dark and sordid backstreets take on a sort of ominous charm. The film has everything: fantastic acting, incredible vocals, beautiful costumes and visuals and more emotion than a teen watching Glee.

At the end of the day…You have to see this film, and do not leave it one day more!

Lauren Tildsley

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