Goddamnit, Anne Hathaway. Must you punch me in the heart and make me cry in every one of your scenes?
This movie has some amazing things going for it. Namely, Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. They really make the movie with beautiful singing and intense emotion. I’ve seen Les Mis on stage before, and Fantine never made me cry like Anne Hathaway did. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was the angriest I’ve ever heard, and she convinced me. (And honestly, it makes sense for Fantine to be angry as well as despairing, because this wasn’t how her life was supposed to be.) And I know a lot of people were side-eyeing the Hugh Jackman thing, apparently unaware of the fact that the man was in musicals on stage for years and even won a Tony. But it shows in this movie, it really does. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen do a pretty good turn as the scumbag Thenardiers as well, though HBC really just kind of felt like Mrs. Lovett revisited with a bit less cannibalism.
The rest of the movie, I had more reservations about. Russell Crowe does a technically competent job of singing, but he doesn’t seem to emote very well when he does it. Which is too bad, since Javert is a character that takes a lot of conviction in song. There was only one instance in the movie (near the beginning when he fights with Jean Valjean in the hospital) that I really felt anything out of him, and the rest was… pretty flat.
I also honestly did not like the way the movie was shot. I know one of the great things about movies versus stage is that it lets us get right up there with the characters and see into their eyes. Which is great. But it would have been nice if the director had given the characters some goddamn space once in a while. I felt like 90% of the movie was closeups, and it started getting both claustrophobic and annoying after a while. Half the time I completely lost sense of place with the characters because you couldn’t see anything but their face and a colorful blur for the background. I’m sure there were some nice sets and costumes in the movie, but I feel like I didn’t see a hell of a lot of them. The face is important for expression, yes, but how about some arms? Some legs? For all I know, Hugh Jackman was wearing running shorts in half his scenes because we never see him below the shoulders.
Honestly, I prefer the stage production.
Is the movie worth seeing? I’d say yes. Anne Hathaway will ruin Les Mis for every other Fontine. Hugh Jackman is excellent. (You get well acquainted with the inside of his mouth considering the amount of time the camera spends staring down it, but hey, he’s got nice teeth.) Is it worth showing to someone that’s musical phobic that you’d never be able to drag to a stage production? Definitely.
But will the movie make you like Les Mis if you didn’t before? Unless your problem was that Fontine didn’t reach out from the stage and punch you directly in the emotions and you wanted a more intimate relationship with Jean Valjean’s tonsils, probably not. Story and music-wise, it’s just like the stage version. To quote my best friend’s dad: “They sang and they died and they died and they sang and they sang and they sang and they died and they sang.”
Basically that. But it does make a lovely bit of Oscar bait. If Anne Hathaway doesn’t get a nomination out of this, I am going down to the award ceremony and flipping the entire goddamn stage.