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“Les Miserables” a grandiose musical of epic proportions

Joe Salvato, Entertainment Editor
February 12, 2013
Filed under Entertainment

The faint sound of sniffles could be heard from all directions in the theater as the credits rolled for Tom Hooper’s new film “Les Miserables”, and and that point it seemed the movie was already a big success.

Arguably the most famous stage musical of all time, “Les Miserables”, is brought to the silver screen with Tom Hooper’s brilliant and daring direction.

If only this version still had an intermission.

Stylistically, “Les Mis” is incredible, but it stumbles a little bit in its pacing. The story definitely loses the momentum it picked up in the first act, but it’s still such an impressive looking movie that it’s difficult to become bored.  Especially when Sacha Baron Cohen is on screen because he’s a scene stealer as Monsieur Thenardier, the man who looks over Cosette for Fatine in the beginning.

The film opens in France 1863.  Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) is in prison for stealing a loaf of bread.  He is under supervision by the evil Javert, the worst cop in the history of France who also happens to have the worst voice (sorry Russell Crowe).

After becoming a free man, Valjean breaks his parole to start a new life.  And as his story intertwines with a prostitute named Fatine (Oscar frontrunner Anne Hathaway) and her daughter Cosette, his life and the lives around him begin to change over the course of 15 years.

The movie is filled with extremely talented vocal performances that were all sung live on set as opposed to recorded in a studio, which add a completely new feeling of realism to the events happening.  But what makes this version of Les Mis shine is in the direction and the cinematography.

Hooper takes every major solo performance and films them in one take, with a close-up shot on the actors face as they belt the whole thing out.  Never has a musical taken such an artistic risk with the way the this was filmed, and it all proves extremely effective.

Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dream A Dream” stands out as one of the high points.  She gets choked up mid-song and might make a few mistakes, but these are the imperfections that make the film all the more real.

From the massive barricade that the French revolution creates in the street to the canvassing city that surrounds it, the movie is incredibly detailed.

So “Les Miserables” might have a plot stall and Javert might sound like he has bronchitis, but the bold direction in which Hooper takes this universal story and expands it from a stage to the screen is an impressive feat all on it’s own.

3.5 out of 4 stars

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