It's a joy.
Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Screenplay: Claude-Michel Schonberg
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Real Steel), Russell Crowe (The Next Three Days)
Runtime: 157 min.
by John DeSando
Jean Valjean: “I stole a loaf of bread. My sister’s child was close to death, and we were starving.”
Javert: “And you will starve again unless you learn the meaning of the law!”
Just as I stood at the end of the stage production of Les Miserables, I stood in my home after watching a screener copy. I was, however, concerned that I would have nothing “critical’ to say about director Tom Hooper’s lush film version, filled with first-rate actors believable crowds, and singing befitting non-opera types in a people’s opera.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), mayor of Paris in the first part of the 19th century, promises dying prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to take care of her daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). He has been eluding the tireless policeman, Javert (Russell Crowe), after breaking parole for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread, for which he served 19 years.
It’s not so much the melodrama that grabs me as the inspired music that has discernibly distinct and luscious melodies and a book that straightforwardly tells story and reveals character. Jackman, Hathaway, and Crowe are competent singers, and the better for not being opera stars, who would have compromised the Everyman feel of the musical.
For an almost three hour show, Hooper and writer Claude-Michel Schonberg keep the action moving from Javert and Valjean in a battle of wits and the youths fomenting a revolution right outside the windows. For comic relief, Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier and Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier run a comical whore house and do quite well as pickpockets. At times, their antics are so opposite the grand action outside as to be almost irritating.
Les Mis was a thrill on stage; it is a joy on screen as the 19th century comes alive with the poor struggling against the rich and the noble, poor or rich, miserable.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org.
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Paneland Idol Chatter.
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com