Les Misérables, or as it is otherwise known An Australian Wolverine in Paris, is the 2012 adaptation of the musical of the same name. It stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne, and was directed by Tom Hooper.
The story’s either blindingly obvious or completely unknown depending on what your opinion of musicals is. If, like me, you believe them to be the bastard child of live gigs and stage plays that should have been aborted long before the turn of the millennium, then you won’t have a clue. Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean, played by Wolverine, who is a convict that goes on the run from Inspector Javert, played by Maximus Decimus Meridius. On the way he runs into Fantine, played by Catwoman, who has worked herself into an early grave trying to provide for her child. Valjean takes it on himself to raise the child, and with the background of one of the many revolutions they had in France (why they couldn’t just have sporting events to pass the time like the rest of us, I don’t know) Valjean and Javert are forced into their final confrontation.
Shall we start with the obvious? You see this sentence? It holds more a tune being completely mute than Russell Crowe ever can. Frankly if you forget about the plot and just view it as the audition stages of those pop reality shows, just with Hollywood A listers, you’ll have such a great time laughing at Crowe. I don’t mind saying that as he doesn’t know where I live so he can’t throw a phone at me.
Crowe seems to be the exception however, the rest of the cast do well enough with the singing, even if it is singing in that over enunciated, hammed up style that we all expect from musicals. The absolute stand-out of the film isn’t (as you might expect given his background) Hugh Jackman, it’s Sacha Baron Cohen. Playing this malignant musical version of Captain Jack Sparrow, he really brought me some absolute joy in what was otherwise a relentless ordeal. The production values are good overall, the CGI assisted land and cityscapes are excellent though the sets themselves seem simply average by today’s standards.
If we forget the fact it’s a musical, and that Crowe can’t hold a tune if you stuck an iPod in his hand, the real failing of the film is the way it’s presented. We invented steadicams so that the shaking of the cameraman’s hand while he holds the camera and moves about isn’t obvious on film and isn’t distracting. Despite the fact that we have this wonderful technology it seems that they handed the camera for this film to an epileptic having a fit and made him shoot from a small boat in raging seas. Life of Pi was set in raging seas and had less shaky camera work than this film. Then we have the number of ‘artsy’ shots for no apparent reason. There’s one establishing shot of a room that’s at a 45 degree angle for no reason I can fathom. It comes across as Hooper’s been handed a book of camera theory and thrown everything in at some point just to make it look like some thought’s been put in.
So should you see it? Well if you’re already amongst the enlightened that know that the only good musical is The Nightmare Before Christmas, you don’t have to waste your beer money. If you like, or are at least apathetic towards, musicals then you should see it. If only because it’s cheaper than seeing the stage version, and you’ll be able to see all the action regardless of where you’re sat in the auditorium.
I still don’t think Jean Valjean is a name for a character; it’s the sound everyone makes when someone wakes them up with a question.