Les Miserables-A A +A
Saturday, January 12, 2013
NOT having read Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel and not having seen any of the staging of the musical, I didn’t know what to expect from the British film “Les Miserables.” All I could associate it with are “I Dreamed a Dream" and “On My Own,” two all-time West End/Broadway favorites.
The grandiose opening scene of prisoners pulling a colossal vessel set the tone of a dark and poignant story about Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), the prisoner who turned his life around by carrying a new identity and through sheer hard work. Almost all of the dialogues are sung. As publicized, the main actors sang the songs live when filmed.
It takes a few frames before one gets used to Jackman and Russell Crowe (as the pursuing police inspector Javert) singing. Both carry the load of this magnificent opus, and they do justice to their respective roles: the raw emotion, the dramatic singing and the heart-pounding clashes.
Jackman and Anne Hathaway (as displaced factory worker-turned-prostitute Fantine) depict their suffering characters with authenticity not just in terms of their wretched appearances, but more significantly in their screen demeanor.
The revelation, though, is Eddie Redmayne (as the idealistic young man, Marius Pontmercy) who is so natural as the idealistic Marius Pontmercy, the love interest of Fantine’s daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Thénardier couple’s Eponine (Samantha Barks). In his scenes, Redmayne shines with his impeccable acting-singing. (I am convinced this actor has a bright future ahead of him.)
Seyfried is a surprise, embodying flawlessly a lass pulled between a father’s (Valjean) love and Marius’s love. As a newcomer, Barks, who was handpicked by producer Cameron Mackintosh from one of the stagings of the musical, carry herself well among the veteran actors.
Providing comic relief are the fraudster Thenardier couple (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter). Cohen still has the chops, but Carter has become boring, if not distracting.
Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) created a powerful film using coherent storytelling and combining character close-ups with highlights of the Parisian gapping society of poverty and affluence---from the hopelessness of the rebellion to the heavenly redemption of heroes and martyrs.
“Les Miserables” has brought film-adaptation back in front after the much-maligned “Rock of Ages” that cast Tom Cruise as an aging rock star. I guess the door is now open for the film adaptation of another Cameron Mackintosh epic, “Miss Saigon.” That should be as spectacular and as hypnotizing as “Les Miserables.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2013.