Les Miserables

28 Jan

According to IMDb website, the plotline is : “In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever”.

From the opening scene of Les Miserable, it seemed as if we were going to be in for an epic journey. Hugh Jackman played Jean Valjean, singing the opening words and is accompanied by the chain gang. The singing continued and even though I am familiar with a number of songs from the theatre production, I really wasn’t familiar with the whole storyine and did not realise that the whole script or dialogue is sung word for word, line by line. It was in my naivete that I expected some spoken words but alas, it was foolish of me to think otherwise. We know Hugh can sing and dance as he’s been nominated for and won many awards for his Broadway and musical productions. But it still seems at odds for such a masculine character actor to be heard singing, as to the majority of film fans, he is better known as Wolverine from the X Men movies.
Russell Crowe as Javert appeared comfortable in his role as the police officer. His attempt at singing reminded me of Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! Not a bad thing but at least he made an effort in “doing a Rex Harrison”. That means we know he’s not a great singer like Pavarotti or a respectable tenor, but can hold his own and that is enough to carry the story forward.
Anne Hathaway steals the show with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” and it looks as if her performance may be nominated for an award or two. I though she offered an emotional performance and you really feel for her character Fantine, especially when you know that in the scene where she has to cut off and sell her hair, Anne really sacrificed her own dark locks for her art and brought a tear to the eye.
Amanda Seyfried, played Cosette. Amanda really seems to be carving out a niche for herself in playing these lightweight love lorn young women with a touch of pain and anguish.
Helene Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen add light relief as Madame and her husband Thenardier, especially when they sing “Master of the House” I like Helena but it seems that she is playing the same cockney, boozy, floozy time and time again. Strange how years ago she complained that she was being typecast as a young English Rose and deliberately set out to play a cockney rebel/prostitute back then and has never quite stopped playing that role ever since…

Amongst the other young Brit actors, Eddie Redmayne and as Marius and Samantha Barks as Eponine brought understated, solid performances to their characters. Eddie singing “Empty chairs and empty tables” was pitched just at the right level of loss of friendship and remembrance and Samantha, who was the only cast member who had performed in a live theatre production of Les Mis, sang about unrequited love with compassion in the song “On My Own.”

The set, production and design really made an impact and I did feel as if I was transported back to the time of The French Revolution. Make up and costume added to the whole atmosphere of wretchedness, poverty, filth and squalor and the realms of what the poor had to do to survive.
My only gripe is that the young blone street urchin who played a minor yet pivotal role was a stereotypical EastEnd boy from modern day London rather than a French pauper from the 19th century.

Other notable songs such as “Do they hear the people sing?” and “At the end of the Day?” are rousing vocal collectives and Hugh singing “Bring Him Home” has real depth, empathy and quality of brotherhood. I remembered these more for the fact that I performed them as an ensemble at Birmingham Town Hall when I was s student in 1987! and I wanted to see how it transferred to the screen adaptation. Ah! it did bring back some memories and I found myself humming and singing along…

At times, it did seem that the production was really pushing the emotional boundaries, the vocal outpourings became a tad too indulgent or irritating and any attempts of falling into one emotion was soon scuppered by another jolt of negative vibes such as hate, anger or frustration. This musical really makes you feel as if you’ve gone through the wringer with the characters.

However, it is good to see that musicals in one form or another. are making a return.

The Learned Kat


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