Tom Hooper, director of the aforementioned film, has now tried his hand at directing a musical: the film adaptation of the Broadway sensation “Les Miserables.” To clarify, the gentleman did not just try his hand at directing this emotional musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, but he succeeded with high marks. It is a moving tribute to the book, and Hooper’s camera glides effortlessly from scene to scene, leaving you amazed in parts because you are so riveted by the actors’ performances.
The film opens with prisoners pulling in a large ship in the pouring rain singing “Look Down.” Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, looks worn down, emaciated, and tired. The camera pans this vast area as prisoners sing about the horrors they are facing as victims of “the law.” Javert, an officer of the law, played by Russell Crowe, stands above them, gazing down with stern eyes. From this point on, with the music blaring in the cinema, I knew I was in for a treat.
I am quite familiar with the story. Madamoiselle Hammerstrom, my high school French teacher, had us read “Les Miserables” in French, and we discussed it in class. Additionally, I have seen the stage production at least six times. I own the soundtrack. I can play “I Dreamed a Dream” on the piano (and I sing along to it as I play quite badly). So, as you can see, I do have some pretty valid “Les Mis” credentials.
The key to this film’s success is that Hooper wanted the actors to sing their parts live as the cameras were rolling. The only thing, according to Jackman on “60 Minutes,” that they could hear was the piano music in their earpiece. There was no symphony backing them, nor were there any voice enhancements of any kind.
I loved that Hooper shot it this way. It’s amazing.
When Anne Hathaway sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” and Samatha Barks sings “On My Own,” I found myself holding my breath. These two songs by women are sung with such heart and feeling; it isn’t any wonder Hathaway has been mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee.
Hear me clearly when I say this: this film is a treat that you must see IN THE THEATRE. Don’t wait for this film to be available On Demand. Go now while the getting is good.
The critics have sat back and have given this film two to two and a half stars. Our own Washington Post critic, Ann Hornaday, had this to say, which made my skin crawl:
“The centerpiece of a movie composed entirely of centerpieces belongs to Anne Hathaway, who as the tragic heroine Fantine sings another of the memorable numbers in a show of surprisingly few hummable tunes.”
Really? Few hummable tunes? What planet is this woman on? “Les Miserables” boasts one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, with almost every song being a memorable one. I had to scratch my head when I read this remark and then discount her entire review, knowing I was going to see it for myself and make up my own mind.
Likewise, as if we’ve all been waiting desperately to hear what “renowned” song-maker Adam Lambert had to say about “Les Mis” (weren’t you waiting in breathless anticipation as I was????), the Twitter feed blew up when he made this remark:
“Les Mis: Visually impressive w great Emotional performances. But the score suffered massively with great actors PRETENDING to be singers.”
Do yourselves a favor. Ignore this crap. Don’t listen to the critics. Or Adam Lambert. It infuriates me that they would dare belittle a film such as this. Why would they purposely try to sway people away from having a little culture in their lives? Why steer them away from one of the greatest books set to music in literature? So we can go see another “crash and burn” and car chase movie?
“Les Miserables” is a moving piece of work. If you don’t tear up during some portion of it, there may be something wrong with you.
Ignore the amount of stars, or lack thereof.
Go see it.
It’s worth every penny.