Les Miserables ***

les-miserables-2012

 

Running Time: 158 minutes       Cert: 12A

Synopsis: In 19th century France, an ex-convict breaks parole and sets out to change his life. Along the way, he agrees to bring up the child of a factory worker turned prostitute who has died and she becomes his priority. 

 

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, the film begins in the early 19th century as prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is being released having served his time. Finding he is unable to find work or be accepted due to his history, a chance encounter with a bishop prompts him to destroy his documents and break parole. For the next few years, he is hunted by policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) who eventually tracks him down as the mayor of a town in France where he is well respected and employs a large number of workers. One of his workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is removed from the factory in which she is employed when it is discovered she has a child whom she is sending money to. Unable to support herself or her child, the young woman resorts to measures that eventually lead to her being arrested by Javert (Crowe) but saved by Valjean (Jackman) when he realises he was partly responsible for her situation.

 

Les Miserables is first and foremost a musical so the viewer expects music to be a huge part of the film. While some of the songs featured are enjoyable, others are sub-standard and seem like they don’t know when to end.  Russell Crowe in particular is an awful singer in this film. While some of his musical work is good, he’s a rock singer and doesn’t adapt his voice to fit the situation. Although some may argue this can’t be done, performances by other actors elsewhere suggest it can be. The problem with Crowe is he lacks adaptability and isn’t able to sing any other way.

 

The story is very drawn out. At 158 minutes the film is a lot longer than necessary and there are sections that could easily be cut from it. There are also a number of plot holes that leave the viewer with questions about why a particular event happened or what caused a character’s death. There is also the question of why a large majority of the cast talk like they’re straight out of Eastenders. Considering the story is set in France, this doesn’t make sense. The viewer can accept that French accents might not be easy for an English speaking audience to understand, but the Eastenders-style accents give the film a rather cheesy feel.

 

In terms of performance by the actors, Anne Hathaway stands out as Fantine, a single mother forced into prostitution. Despite only being in the film for a short period, the character is believable and her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream” is one of the better ones in the film. While Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide comic relief as the rather dodgy Thenardiers, Helena Bonham Carter acts in a similar manner to previous roles. The similarity between Madame Thenardier and her character in Sweeney Todd means her performance doesn’t particularly stand out in the film.

 

While Hugh Jackman does a reasonably good job in the role of the main character, he doesn’t particularly stand out and seems slightly miscast while Russell Crowe seems rather bland throughout the film. Both are strong actors, but their performances raise the question of whether they were cast appropriately. Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) also gives a very average performance as does Eddie Redmayne as Marius. While the love at first sight theme is necessary for the story, the viewer can’t help but question why Marius chooses Cosette rather than Eponine (Samantha Barks), an attractive girl who loves him unconditionally.

 

Overall, Les Miserables was disappointing. The story had too many plot holes, the acting was sub-standard and the movie was simply too long. While this running time works for some films, Les Miserables dragged on and felt like 6 hours as opposed to almost 3.

 

Reviewed by Lesley Logan

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