I was anxious before watching it, exhausted whilst watching it, and definitely miserable after watching it – but it’s still one of the most brilliant films I’ve seen.
Who’d have thought that Wolverine, Maximus from Gladiator, Catwoman, the guy from Birdsong and the girl from Mamma Mia!, Borat and Bellatrix Lestrange could work together so perfectly, eh? Les Misérables is a truly extraordinary experience.
I use the word ‘experience’ here carefully, because Les Mis is just that. I am not even sure that I could bear to see the film again, in case it didn’t live up to the first time around. You see, Les Mis isn’t exactly enjoyable. It’s a full-on emotional rollercoaster that barely gives you time to recover from one tear-jerking scene before moving onto the next. However, there is something quite special and almost surreal in sitting amongst a hundred other people, every single one of them sobbing away, as French revolutionaries struggle for freedom and an innocent man is hunted down by a ruthless policeman.
As its name suggests, Les Misérables is probably not for you if you suffer from depression, indeed the only thing stopping me from giving in and slitting my wrists at some points was the hilarious double act of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, who tried desperately and nearly successfully to steal the show, but were held back simply by the fantastic performances of the rest of the cast, of whom most notable is Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, who deservedly earned his first Oscar nomination (and I hope will win it), giving the best performance of his career so far. Jackman’s singing was very good as well, given that it (along with all the other songs in the musical) was recorded live on set. This makes a surprising difference, and I could go on about how it allows actors to express a new level of emotion that they could never before reach when lip syncing to a pre-recorded song, but whilst that would be true you should really just go and see (and hear) for yourself. It is quite a rarity to have a film where every single actor in it, leading or supporting, is superb – but that really is the case in Les Mis (in fact Anne Hathaway’s remarkable performance of the classic ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is currently looking likely to win her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and it really is something).
In an operatic way, dialogue is very limited throughout the musical (much more so than in other musicals), with the primary form of communication being through song. Before seeing the film (and during the opening minutes) I was sceptical as to whether this would keep me engaged, or whether it would just get plain annoying after a while, but I needn’t have worried. The music is powerful and moving, and, though I’ve never seen the stage version, there were plenty of tunes that I recognised.
Now for a small rant.
The Independent newspaper (more specifically, i) gave the film two out of five stars, claiming that it is ‘a really poor movie, uneven, bloated, bombastic and horribly strained’. I struggle to see how they can claim this is so, though their review is for me invalid anyway due to the simple fact that they refer to the film as a ‘movie’ (maybe the disambiguation of this could be a topic for a future article). However, upon further searching online it appears that this film has divided audiences on a relatively regular basis. Maybe you have to be in a certain mind-set to ‘get’ the film, or maybe the heavy and raw emotion isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For 157 minutes, Tom Hooper, the director (of The King’s Speech fame) plunges you into his world, and, though it’s tough work, when you eventually come out the other side it is well worth it.
Les Misérables is truly one of the most incredible films I’ve seen. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried through a lot of it, along with the rest of the packed cinema, and that, at the end, I joined in with the applause. Anyway, I must stop now, as I’m running out of superlatives, but I cannot recommend the film highly enough. I urge you to watch it – c’est incroyable.
Check out the Trailer: