It’s taken 32 years, but the popular musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables finally reaches the screen with mixed success. Much of it works, but the reviews are mainly negative, terming the film bloated and disappointing.
It certainly is too long. Maybe the producers and director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) should have cut a number or two, but then the multitudes of fans of this well-known musical might complain about the absence of a favourite tune.
Hugh Jackson plays the heroic Valjean. A convict released on parole after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread, he runs away and becomes a successful businessman and the mayor of a French town. He carries most of the film on his broad and talented shoulders. Russell Crowe is the stiff bulldog policeman chasing him over the years to their final showdown during the 1832 Paris uprising. Anne Hathaway is excellent as the doomed Fantine and Amanda Seyfried plays her grownup daughter Cosette. There’s an excellent supporting cast including Eddie Redmayne and Helena Bonham Carter.
I’m not sure if having non-professional singers like Crowe do their own singing live to camera was a good idea, although Hathaway’s efforts are heartfelt and impressive. However, it does give the movie an immediacy often lacking in musicals.
There are some stirring visuals (however, too many close-ups of the singers), excellent production values and a cast of thousands. It ends with a rousing and stirring finale, but this reviewer was glad when it was over.
Rating: four deer out of five
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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.