Taking one of the most beloved Novels of the 19th Century, above that a TONY Award-winning Musical, and adapting it into a Film properly is by all means a daunting task. Academy Award-winning Director Tom Hooper succeeds largely in giving due justice to the timeless story that is Les Misérables , without a doubt stamping itself as a legitimate Best Picture Contender. In any other year, the Musical might have been more definitively in the running, however one cannot deny that 2012 has shaped-up to be one of the most competitive years in recent memory – the race being wide-open still for that coveted Oscar Gold.
Les Misérables centers around a Man named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. After tensions mount between him and a Police Inspector, Javert (Russell Crowe), he is a wanted Man after breaking parole. Javert dedicates obsessively his attentions and energy to capturing Valjean, who eventually becomes a reformed Man and the Mayor of a French town. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), an ill-fortuned Factory Worker, is forced into a life of prostitution to support herself and her estranged Daughter Cossette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried) after Valjean fails to protect her under his power. After falling ill, she crosses paths with Valjean once again and he decides to repay his moral debt to her, promising to care for Cossette. Javert soon discovers this and edges-in even closer to Valjean, but the cat-and-mouse chase continues well into the June Revolution of 1832, with Cossette – now a young Woman with burgeoning affections for a Revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Will Valjean ever be captured by Javert we wonder, and what will become of Cossette and Marius‘ love with the impending Revolution?
I will be the first to admit that in his faithfulness to its Theatrical predecessor, Hooper slightly misjudges the pacing a bit here for a Movie-going audience particularly late in Les Miserables, where it suffers a bit from self-indulgence and redundancy with Jackman‘s Valjean dwelling uncomfortably long in tragic Hero mode. And really, is a song about the tragedy of loss from Marius necessary especially after we witness a gratuitous display of bloodbath moments prior? That being said, Jackman‘s performance here is Best Actor-worthy in any given year, showing an unwavering commitment and discipline to the role. His transformation absolutely is believable and graceful, which unfortunately makes others pale in comparison, namely Crowe‘s one-dimensional Javert.
The real revelation here however, is Hathaway‘s Fantine – a performance so raw and visceral, you will be left trembling in your seat. Perhaps, one of the greatest cinematic performances in recent memory by an Actress? Of course, we are so floored within the first quarter of Les Misérables that we spend the remaining three-quarters of it hoping to experience that same level of intensity and passion, although it never quite happens. Something also is to be said about pleasant surprises like Sacha Baron Cohen‘s transformation here as Monsieur Thénardier, comically stealing his scenes entirely as he would. Who would have known his musical ability?
Universal Pictures releases Les Misérables on Christmas Day and regardless of any shortcomings, you really are taken on a journey here in what is an experience worthy of a visit to the Movies this Holiday Season.
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