Life’s an un­happy song

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

LES MIS­ER­ABLES Star­ring Hugh Jack­man, Rus­sell Crowe, Anne Hath­away, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Co­hen, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, Ed­die Red­mayne, Sa­man­tha Barks. Screen­play by Wil­liam Ni­chol­son, di­rected by Tom Hooper. Rated M (vi­o­lence, sex­ual ref­er­ences), 157 min­utes. Show­ing at Read­ing Porirua and Light House Pau­ata­hanui cinemas. WOW. I’ve never seen so many un­happy peo­ple sing so much.

De­spite its globe-trot­ting longevity, Les Mis­er­ables al­ways es­caped me. Be­yond vague rec­ol­lec­tions of Master of the House play­ing in form 2 mu­sic class, Vic­tor Hugo’s novel and the mu­si­cal mon­ster it spawned in the 1980s, had never meant any­thing more to me than a poster of a for­lorn lit­tle French girl or that it was the suc­cess­ful stage show An­drew Lloyd Web­ber didn’t com­pose.

By oth­ers’ ac­counts, Tom Hooper’s cin­e­matic adap­ta­tion of Les Mis­er­ables stays very true to its mu­si­cal the­atre ori­gins, and its im­pres­sive 8.2/ 10 rat­ing on would sug­gest it has struck a chord with more than just the ‘Les Mis’ alumni.

It cer­tainly looks the goods, boast­ing fan­tas­tic cine­matog­ra­phy and cos­tumes.

While I could tell which bits in the movie would have likely tin- gled my spine or given me goose bumps had I seen it on stage, the film it­self wasn’t ca­pa­ble of trig­ger­ing such re­ac­tions.

This could partly be be­cause I’m no mu­si­cal junkie. It took a good half-hour for me to get past the fact ev­ery­thing is sung, even the bor­ing, bridg­ing di­a­logue be­tween the songs.

It could also be be­cause Les Mis­er­ables is bloated and over­wrought.

It’s stuffed with too many themes and thinly-writ­ten characters, and much of its mu­sic bears a plod­ding, repet­i­tive tempo. Am I alone on this? For the unini­ti­ated, we’re in 19th cen­tury France, where Jean Val­jean (Hugh Jack­man), makes a new, hon­est life for him­self af­ter spend­ing 18 years in jail for steal­ing a piece of bread.

But un­bend­ing lawman Javert ( Rus­sell Crowe) is hell­bent on en­sur­ing Val­jean is pun­ished for breach­ing pa­role.

Af­ter Jack­man’s char­ac­ter makes a prom­ise to raise the daugh­ter of fac­tory worker (Anne Hath­away), his per­sonal quest for re­demp­tion be­comes en­tan­gled with the hopes and dreams of Parisian revo­lu­tion­ar­ies.

Shot en­tirely as a close-up, the poignant lyrics of I Dreamed a Dream and Hath­away’s bro­ken face and crest­fallen voice com­bine for Les Mis­er­ables’ defin­ing moment, al­beit ar­riv­ing in the first 30 min­utes.

No doubt try­ing to pro­vide view­ers with some­thing the stage show couldn’t, Hooper uses the close- up ea­gerly and of­ten, em­pha­sis­ing an­guished ex­pres­sions, but too of­ten the song and/ or the char­ac­ter aren’t strong enough to war­rant it.

The gruff, dirge vo­cals of Jack­man and Crowe tend to over­whelm pro­ceed­ings, a melodic malaise only bro­ken tem­po­rar­ily by the sweet-voiced Ed­die Red­mayne ( play­ing Mar­ius) and Sa­man­tha Barks (Epo­nine), and the comic re­lief of Sacha Baron Co­hen and He­lena Bon­ham Carter’s light-fin­gered shys­ters.

Sav­ing grace: Hugh Jack­man’s Jean Val­jean takes care of Les Mis­er­ables’ finest at­tribute, Anne Hath­away’s fac­tory worker-turned-pros­ti­tute Fan­tine.

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