Hooper takes 'Les Mis' to screen with emotion, beauty
PG-13 for violence, adult situations; ***1⁄2 (out of four)
To transform the much-beloved “Les Miserables” from stage to screen, director Tom Hooper had find a way to maintain — and amplify — the emotional power of the original words and music with the trappings of a big-screen production. His efforts have created a beautiful and moving version of the stage production that's loyal enough to its origins to appease Broadway musical fans, yet is theatrical enough to stand as a feature-film release.
“Les Miserables” is a story of love, devotion, dedication and betrayal set in the years following the French Revolution. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) emerges from 19 years of hard labor in prison — sent there for stealing a loaf of bread — and begins a new life. His new world is threatened when he's recognized by Javert (Russell Crowe), a man whose devotion to the letter of the law goes beyond the obsessive.
The honorable Valjean is willing to return to prison because of his parole violation, but he must first complete a promise he makes to a dying Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a young woman from his factory who has turned to a life of prostitution to pay for her daughter's care.
Hooper started with one huge advantage. The timeless and powerful story resonates with a conscious-shaking force no matter the medium. In a world where there are no absolutes, two dedicated men strive to protect the purity of their convictions. The always surprisingly versatile Jackman turns in a masterful performance as a man who emerges from a shattered life to become a champion of truth and justice.
Jackman's expressive face and competent singing voice bring a depth to the role that serves as a centerpiece for telling this dramatic tale.
Crowe brings a thuggish quality to his Javert role, but his thin voice is often a distraction.
Anne Hathaway is tres magnifique. Hooper was smart enough to know that while the actress might not have the singing skills of those who have played the role on stage, Hathaway's acting abilities more than makes up for any musical deficiencies. Hooper leaves the camera on her face as she sings the show-stopping “I Dreamed a Dream” with such haunting restraint that it makes you think that this must be what it's like when angels cry.
The film is loaded with powerful supporting players, particularly Samantha Barks as the suffering Éponine and Eddie Redmayne as the lovesick Marius.
Hooper gives the actors a stunning backdrop to work against, creating a 19th-century Paris that feels so real you can almost smell the sewers and feel the rats running across your feet. It's these sweeping vistas that justify making the stage musical into a film.
There are a few small problems, such as the staging of the “Master of the House” scene that feels more like a Tim Burton production.
Overall, Hooper has taken the stage play and elevated it visually to counterbalance the weaker voices. The combination of the powerful story and his beautiful vision makes “Les Miserables” a winner.
• Wide release
— The Fresno Bee
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCandless Cinemark set to open Sept. 19
- Review: ‘November Man’ is low quality with a high body count