"Les Miz" breaks the show biz

Dec. 26, 2012, 4:48 p.m. | By Aanchal Johri | 11 years, 6 months ago

The world's longest running musical may have just turned into the world's best adaptive film

Just when you thought Les Miserables couldn't get more perfect in Blair drama teacher Kelly O' Connor's vision of the classical French novel, director Tom Hooper's version sets the bar even higher. With acclaimed actors conversing in rhyming melodies, heroic acts sweeping through tragic episodes and a historical revolution coming alive in front of the audience, Les Misérables, one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, exceeds all of its expectations.

The plot revolves around Inspector Javert's (Russell Crowe) pursuit of escaped prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Meanwhile, altruistic Valjean cares for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the illegitimate daughter of sickly, impoverished Fantine (Anne Hathaway). The beginning of the movie is serious and disconcerting, but the gravity of the situation lifts once the Thenardiers, two jokesters who periodically show up to liven up the plot, sing "Master of the House." The movie then fast forwards to the thickening French June Rebellion of 1832, which introduces heroic characters such as student revolutionary Marcius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne). Though the plot focuses on the inner struggle of Valjean seeking redemption, the movie depicts the broader problems in the aftermath of the French Revolution, such as political struggle and revenge. Every aspect of the movie, from the heart-wrenching solos to the candid acting, speaks of the real life issues faced when in poverty or in love.

Thanks to the grandiose stage sets and theatrical props, the complex plot is relatively easy for the audience to follow. The movie garners the feel of an authentic play, as the entire dialogue is sung rather than spoken. Remarkably, the actors take on their roles completely, as they sing for the characters they play; there is no lip-syncing to other singers and no mouthing to pre-recorded tracks. Even with little background music, the actors due a tremendous job of evoking emotion into their songs. Hathaway's highly commendable rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" is arguably the most endearing part of the film, as her facial expressions and voice beg the audience to sympathize with her poverty-stricken situation.

Crowe's deep commanding voice juxtaposed with Hathaway's high, pleading voice surrender the melancholy tone of the movie. Those who have seen other adaptions of the play or have read Victor Hugo's original "Les Miserables" play will be pleased to see how remarkably the actors match the characters they play. For example, the younger Cosette (Isabelle Allen) almost identically resembles the young girl on the cover of Hugo's original novel and her voice corresponds to the doleful, ill-treated girl. Crowe, who has led many other Hollywood hits such as "A Beautiful Mind," stars as the solemn lead role again while Seyfried takes on her typical angelic role as a gentle young woman. Other major actors in the movie did a fine job of transforming their roles. To morph from the cunning Cat Woman in "The Dark Knight Rises" to a destitute single mother, Hathaway had to shave her head and adopt a dried oatmeal paste diet in order to lose 25 pounds . Hugh Jackman, best known for his role as the fierce Wolverine, transforms into a down-to-earth fatherly figure.

Without the use of 3D animation, the movie reels the reader into the post-Revolution French world using genuine-looking sets and costumes for over 4000 characters . The frivolous costumes of the Thernadiers, along with their outlandishly-styled hair, add humor to the sullen, stiff military uniform worn by Javert. The dark imagery is becoming to the recurring themes of pain and suffering.

Though the movie borders on the edge of the being too long, there's not a minute that goes too slowly in the movie. The movie can get to be endearingly tearful to watch at times, but its overall message inks a warm feeling, perfectly in time for the holidays.

"Come with me where chains will never bind you. All your grief, at last, at last behind you."

"Les Misérables" (158 minutes) is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements. Now playing at theaters everywhere. 3D and IMAX 3D at selected theaters.

Tags: anne hathaway Amanda Seyfried Kelly O'Connor Les Miserables Eddie REdmayne Hugh Jackman Jean Valjean Russell Crow

Aanchal Johri. Aanchal Johri ('14) served as co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online with Jack Estrin from 2013-2014. In January 2014, Johri represented Silver Chips Online at the White House as the only high school journalist to <a href="http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12356">cover</a> the White House State of Science, Technology, Engineering and … More »

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