The long-awaited movie version of the hit-stage musical that has been circumventing the world since 1985 (it’s in its 27th year in London’s West End) is Claude-Michel Schönberg’s take on Victor Hugo’s classic novel on the last few decades in Paris leading up the the French Revolution. And if in case you missed it, then should know its all about what happened to a man after he stole a loaf of bread. Literally. The stubborn peasant Jean Valjean served 19 years for his ‘crime’ and on his release from prison he was determined to ignore the strictures of his parole and become a God-fearing honest and up-right citizen. And he was, but every time he seemed to succeed, the Law caught up with him in the shape of Javest his sworn enemy who had vowed to pursue him for rest of his life.
It’s a story of epic dimensions and even though the movie is a hefty 157 minutes long director Tom Hooper makes the going maddeningly frenetic at times trying to pack in as much as possible. Its action filled scenes with the cameras whirling around however are an odd sharp contrast with the tight close ups of the slow paced big ballads that were stretched out to show that yes, the actors really were singing. And despite some very strong on-screen performances, there was more than one occasion when what you actually see is a very talented actor playing a part and singing his/her heart out but not actually becoming the character itself.
Hugh Jackman does a sterling job holding the piece together in a career-best turn that will deservedly earn him a Best Actor Nomination (though not the Oscar itself), and if you have seen the preview than you will have seen almost all of Anne Hathaway’s small but crucial role of Fantine the good girl who’s forced into prostitution. Ms Hathaway determinedly squeezes every ounce of emotion out of her big show stopping number that should (!) have you reaching for your Kleenex.
For me the actors who really gave some zest (alongside Mr Jackman) and some much needed comic relief and were a sheer joy were Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the hilarious thieving innkeepers. Eddie Redmayne was very surprisingly impressive as Marius the ‘love’ interest, as was newcomer Samantha Barkes as Epononie (Marius’s stalker), and the wonderful young Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche steal every scene he is in.
Transferring a successful stage musical to the big screen very rarely succeeds, and there are countless more flops than hits over the years. This is neither, but nevertheless it is a disappointment that it failed to live up to its expectations especially as it had all the right ingredients to make it really something more than just OK, but maybe it had the wrong choice of chef
Hugh Jackman is worth the price of the ticket alone, but if you were one of those people that actually bought Susan Boyle’s CD (!) then you’ll be heading to the theater regardless of any review anyway.
Available at Amazon
Labels: 2012, musical theater