I first saw “Les Misérables” just nights before its third American tour came to an end. I knew nothing about this show, beyond the basic melody of “On My Own” and a very basic understanding of Victor Hugo’s novel.
Needless to say I was blown away, and now six years later, I’ve seen four different productions of the show and been equally blown away by each. Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables” was no different.
The tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and the score of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alan Boublil are at once epic and intimate. This film captures that beautifully.
Through grand sweeping shots, mixed with extreme (mostly single-take) close-ups for the big numbers, this film manages to make a beloved classic in the world of musical theater’s translation to the screen, as seamless as anyone could really hope for.
There are changes, but they all serve the purpose of transferring the tale to the screen. While on stage, the first time viewer is expected to learn the story as you go along. The film audience is given a bit more help.
The lack of intermission also required a shift in song placement, and others were added and moved around for the sake of the story. But at the end of the day we’re left with a movie that captures just as much emotion as the staged production it set out to be.
Not to mention, this film is chock-full of brilliantly talented performers. Of course, the nominated Mr. Jackman and Anne Hathaway (as Fantine) are more than deserving of the praise they’re receiving. But at its heart “Les Misérables” is an ensemble piece and all of the other parts are just as brilliant.
At the end of the day it’s not perfect, as much as I appreciate the intent of the close-ups, they are a bit overwhelming at points, and some of the effects (especially one certain death) may leave you wondering what kind of film they wanted this to be, but the moving moments far outweigh the eyebrow raising ones.
Lovers of “Les Misérables” will continue to sing its praises and oh so many more can now experience the sweeping beauty of this tale for the first time. What more could you ask for?