Freed after a 20-year sentence for stealing bread, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) breaks parole to create a new life for himself in 19th century France in the film Les Miserables.
He is successful for a time, but finds no joie de vivre as a bourgeois factory owner. One of his employees, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) becomes fatally ill and Valjean promises to take care of her young daughter.
Relentlessly pursued by policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) Valjean and his adopted daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) must spend a life in hiding to avoid being arrested. All the while, revolutionary France fights on against oppression, poverty and despair.
We say, Il est trois heures misérables.
HOWE: Magnifique. I really enjoy my musicals, and Les Mis is clearly up there with the best of them. Who would have thought tough guys like Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe had wonderful singing voices? Bravo.
TAYLOR: They have passable singing voices. People have been a little down on Crowe, but I thought he did fine.
I liked that it was sung live, meaning they rolled cameras, said “action” and sang right there, into the camera. This allowed the emotions to shine through and avoided the often obvious lip syncing of pre-recorded tracks. However, this also required a looser style of cinematography which basically followed the performers around, shooting faces close up.
This limitation becomes a bit disappointing, considering the rich, detailed growing pains of revolutionary France.
HOWE: I have never seen the stage show so I didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you I was moved more than once by the performances of these very talented actors. No more so than when Hathaway sang I Dreamed a Dream. It was such a moving performance, when her tears rolled down her cheeks, I really felt her pain.
TAYLOR: That’s the power of the film. The songs are good, the performances are earnest and staring you in the face. You can almost smell their breath.
I was nearly brought to tears several times, which I found annoying and exhausting. After ninety minutes of pushing and pulling on your heartstrings, you’re only half done. I was glad there was a short respite where they fought a bit of a battle, without singing and crying.
HOWE: If there is one drawback to this great movie it would have to be the singing performances by Seyfried. Her voice was a little sqeaky and when she hit the high notes there was a slight warble not unsimilar to the munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.
TAYLOR: This is a good movie, with all the pathos one expects from the classic tale. I’m not a fan of musicals or the opera, but this film is powerful and effective. I highly recommend you see it on the big screen, because I fear when the film transitions to DVD, seeing everyone’s sad singing faces on the small screen will be less impressive. Vive la resistance!
Taylor gives Les Miserables four baths out of five. Howe gives it four red flags flying out of five.
Les Miserables is showing in Penticton at the Pen Mar Cinema 7 nightly on Friday and Saturday at 6:50 and 10:05 p.m. and Sunday to Thursday only at 6:50 p.m. Matinees at 12:15 and 3:35 p.m.
Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie reviewers from the Okanagan.