Let me begin as inoffensively as I can possibly manage. I thought this was a good movie. I thought the casting, for the most part was excellent, and the tone of the film was exactly as it should have been. I can assume certain things about the comparison between this film and the stage performance, but having never seen the stage performance, I cannot say in any certain degree. From my assumptions though, this film did things that the musical could not, and there are some things conveyed on stage better than through film. Those are just assumptions though. Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I can expand upon my opinion some, and make everyone hate me! Get out your pitchforks and torches; it’s time for a rousing game of Unpopular Opinion! I didn’t think this was the miraculous reworking of a timeless Broadway classic, I didn’t think it was a masterpiece, and I wouldn’t put it at the top of any 2012 movie list. I’ll reiterate what I said above, I thought this was a GOOD movie, bordering on great, but the hype, as it typically is for movies of this nature, is simply over the top.
I thought casting was spectacular with one glaring exception: Hugh Jackman. Don’t get me wrong, love him to death when he’s in his element, but I had some problems with him in this film. I appreciate the effort he put into this film, and I’m very impressed by the amount of work he put in to make his version of Jean Valjean as physically realistic as possible, but I didn’t feel like he ultimately fit the part in all the areas that were necessary. He is obviously at home in the rougher characters that he plays, and that’s why he makes a good slave in the first 20 minutes of the film, but putting him in an emotionally driven role that requires singing for the next 140 wasn’t as wise. That is the part that disappointed me about his performance. Given that the actors interpreted each song on his own (sang live, then the orchestra went back and created music to fit), this is on Jackman. I didn’t particularly care for some of his interpretations of pieces, and there were certain pieces (Bring Him Home, for instance) that seemed well out of his range. Since he was given control of everything about every song he sang on his own, I feel he should have tried a different, more attainable key. The effort was certainly there though, and that is commendable. The rest of the casting, I thought, was spot on, and had Jackman not been the lead, I doubt I’d have any problem with this film. Anne Hathaway does a fabulous job as Fantine, and each of her pieces are simultaneously solemn and beautiful, making for exceedingly moving songs. Russell Crowe did a fine job as Javert, and while at times his voice seemed a tad strained, it fit the character very well. Amanda Seyfried as Cosette worked well, and the chemistry between her and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) seemed very natural. Of course, bringing certain actors/actresses (such as Samantha Barks as Éponine) from the stage production was a brilliant idea. Finally, the duo of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen was certainly one for the ages, and they brought some much needed comic relief to an otherwise melancholy tale. They, in my opinion, stole every scene they were written into, and I think that was the intention. They walked the fine line between purely comical and purely villainous, and they walked it with a sort of finesse that only they could bring.
Visually, it was a splendid showing. This is where those aforementioned assumptions come in. I assume several moments in this film could be more intensely dramatic and emotionally stirring than a stage production could ever hope to be. The monumental size of the opening scene as the boat is being pulled in is one example, the fate of Javert is another, and those are just two that have stuck with me. This was a huge film visually, and while not everything translated from the stage to the silver screen, I’d imagine certain aspects compensated for the shortcomings of others. Make up wasn’t the big deal here as much as actor’s dedication to their roles. I already spoke of Jackman’s regimen, but others. such as Hathaway, had to seemingly starve themselves to get the appropriate look (which was, consequently, a starved and helpless look.) So as much as I berated Jackman’s singing, his dedication to his work is almost fascinating, and the rest of the actors did not fall short in comparison. This film was visually pleasing, and quite realistic in its design.
The story is basically this: a prisoner is let on parole and breaks parole, TIME JUMP, said prisoner is caught pretending to be someone else, TIME JUMP, revolution. Admittedly though, it is a singular story that spans two and a half to three generations, and it intertwines it all very well. It is a tad confusing to have it explained, but if you actually watch the movie, it’s rather simple, so I’d encourage that. This film conveys almost entirely one theme, and that is passion. Every character is driven by it, whether it is the passion of a rebellion by a group of zealous young men, or the passion that first love brings. It is the driving force behind every second of this movie, and if you don’t come out of it with that realization then you simply weren’t paying attention. For such a moving film, it is appropriate that the overarching theme would be something that could connect to so many people at once. However, I found the pacing of this film to be off at times. The first half seemed very slow to me, but it was void of background information on many characters, whereas the second half, which I enjoyed exponentially more, seemed to go by more quickly and included all the character development that I felt was lacking in the first half.
This nearly 3 hour film felt like 3 long hours, but maybe I’m just not a huge musical fan. That may explain my unease as I walked out of the theater. I knew I liked it, and I knew it was a good film, but something just felt off. I can sit here and blame Jackman for it, and he is partially to blame, because I’m particular about my music, but more than that, maybe it’s me. But this is no time for philosophical questions regarding whether I like musical films or not! This is definitely a movie to go watch, it’s well worth your time, and the astounding cast surrounding Jackman make up for his occasional difficulties in certain songs. This was a good film with a star studded cast that should make for the highest grossing musical to hit the big screen. You will undoubtedly enjoy it.
To love another person is to see the face of God.