Les Misérables (2012) Review: One Long Song
All you need to hear about Les Misérables (2012) to know if you will enjoy it is if the premise sounds interesting to you. A silver-screen musical based off the acclaimed Broadway show –which is in turn based off the 1862 prose novel of the same name by Victor Hugo – Les Misérables takes place during the turmoil shortly after the French Revolution. If a movie that is ~95% singing sounds like a bore, you would be better off seeing Django Unchained (2012) this holiday season. If it sounds at the least bit intriguing (and judging by the act of reading this article you probably are), you will not be the least bit disappointed.
There is no chance anyone who enjoys the musical would dislike the movie unless if they were prepared to hate it. For the majority of America thus far unfamiliar with the experience, this is one of the best movies of its kind. Musicals are usually silly or otherwise lack precision with characters breaking into song pulling the audience out of immersion. Les Misérables is not one of those movies and is worthy of many nominations and a few wins during award season.
The strongest part of this film is the acting. Hugh Jackman lifts the film throughout as Jean Valjean performing well not only as an actor but as a singer. The highlight of the whole movie comes early with Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” as Fantine after being brought to the brink of living conditions. As with all songs sung in the film, it is performed on set. In one continuous shot, Hathaway hits all the notes with feeling and superb acting complete with actual tears. The rest of the cast is strong both in acting and vocal performances, but Hathaway takes it home.
Les Misérables has some flaws that typically come with the musical and historical genres. Because there are almost no words spoken, singing regular conversation makes plot progression a pain. The film moves slowly especially when concentrating on a single aspect or situation by song for 3 or more minutes at a time, and it is easy for moviegoers to catch themselves spacing out. This musical has highs and lows as a consequence of its formula putting of plot in the passenger seat. While the plot itself is good, acting and song are the drivers.
The setting is compelling and characterized in a number of different ways. It thankfully uses little CG and depends more on sets depicting the outsides of buildings and streets more than insides or costumes –not to say they are not good; they’re just not highlights. The audience gets to experience different sides of post-revolution France including the hysterical antics of dirty characters like Thénardier (Sasha Baron Cohen). Some revolutionaries looking to overthrow the new establishment are easy to root for, though it leaves much to be explained.
Being one the best of its kind, if you think you might enjoy Les Misérables, you will. Being ~95% song creates a number of difficulties for the movie, but it just works. It can bore at times especially to those who are bored at the concept, so deciding to watch this film is a matter of taste. Overall, Les Misérables is incredibly strong and deserves an ovation for its ambition and precision.
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