Magnificent rather than Miserable
Tom Hooper, Oscar- winning director of The King’s Speech, dreamed a dream of immortalising ClaudeMichel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s powerhouse musical without the conventional safety net of lip- synching.
That audacious gamble - asking the actors to sing live in every take - pays off handsomely, teasing out the heartbreaking emotion in an adaptation of a stage show which has become a global phenom- enon.
Hooper’s terrific film embraces the Schonberg and Boublil songbook with bold directorial flourishes and tour- de- force performances, including a cridecoeur from Anne Hathaway that virtually guarantees her the Oscar.
HughJackmanalsorichly deserves a nomination for his fearless portrayalofaconvict, which required the Australian actor to shed 30 pounds to convincingly portray his emaciated hero.
The film begins with a thrilling overture in a dockyardwhereValjean( Jackman) andhis fellow prisoners haul a ship out of the frothing water under the watchful eye of Inspector Javert ( Crowe).
Valjean is granted parole and leaves behind his tormentor but cannot secure employment because of his shameful past.
Only the kindness of a bishop saves him from starvation.
Eight years later, Valjean has reinvented himself as a revered factory owner in Montreuil- sur- Mer, where one of his workers, Fantine ( Hathaway), is cruelly cast out when the foreman learns she has an illegitimate daughter, Cosette ( Isabelle Allen).
Determined to raise the money to keep her child under the roof of villainous Thenardier ( Sacha Baron Cohen) andhiswife( HelenaBonham Carter), Fantine sells herhair and then her body as she sobs I Dreamed A Dream.
Les Miserables is a towering achievement in front of and behind the camera. With the benefit of live singing, Hooper doesn’t have to photograph set pieces from afar, capturing the turmoil as actors sing their hearts out in lip- quivering close- up.
The cast is superb - Barks breaks hearts with her knockout rendition of OnMy OwnandRedmaynematches her note for soaring note. Only Crowe is miscast. His sweet vocals render Javert somewhat impotent next to Jackman’s booming delivery.