I’m spending my winter break on a nice warm island. When rain swept in, we left our lounge chairs and headed inland to see the movie recreation of Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel, Les Misérables, that is, the movie recreation of the immensely popular stage show. I saw the stage performance when it came to Philadelphia, and we own the 10th Anniversary video featuring the London cast. I’ve always loved the music to the show but hadn’t realized that the composer was Frenchman Claude-Michel Schönberg, yet another French connection.
We all loved the movie; my daughter and I both had to wipe away a tear or two at the end. Anne Hathaway was wonderful as Fantine. While her voice isn’t as spectacular as Ruthie Henshall’s from the London cast, Hathaway conveyed the tragedy of an abandoned woman’s descent into hell with convincing power and pathos. Apparently, the “I Dreamed A Dream” scene was shot in just one take, and she’s the current favorite for Best Supporting Actress. Colm Wilkinson, who gave me goosebumps as Jean Valjean in that same London cast, plays the Bishop whose forgiveness set the former convict on a new path. Hugh Jackman’s voice can’t compare to Wilkinson’s, but Jackman’s performance is commendable for its emotional richness. Russell Crowe’s singing managed to be both nasal and off-key, but his superior acting made Javert come to life.
Certain scenes were much more effective on the big screen than in a stage performance such as the opening minutes where Jean Valjean is working as a convict galley slave dragging a warship into the dock. The scene where Valjean escapes into the sewers with Marius and Javert’s suicide were also superior to the stage version where one’s imagination has to be pretty amazing to conjure up what’s supposed to be happening. The film also made excellent use of strong vocalists in the supporting roles. I’m betting that the men who played the revolutionary students are all stage actors. They were simply excellent, although it was surprising to detect some rather strong Irish accents among all those supposed Frenchmen!
In short, director Tom Hooper is to be commended for this powerful interpretation. I think the cast and crew will deservedly be the centre of attention on Oscar night. I highly recommend that you see Les Misérables.
- Movie review: Hugh Jackman’s hero makes “Les Misérables” one of the year’s finest (denverpost.com)
- LES MISÉRABLES A Brave, Bold and Memorable Movie Musical (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Calling All ‘Les Misérables’ Fans: Let’s Get Geeky About Screen vs. Stage (hollywood.com)
- Les Misérables Primer: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Joining the French Revolution (musicnfilm.wordpress.com)