Les Misérables

"Do You Hear the People Sing?" Yes, we do! And the Oscar buzz has become a roar, with American Anne Hathaway's name on the tip of everyone's tongue! British director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") takes a legendary story and brings the (stage) musical version to the screen for the first time. He has a massive cast of talented performers and neither time nor space allow me to dwell on more than a few. Let me warn you however: if you don't like musicals, there are only one or two words actually spoken, everything else is sung.

The battles in this PG-13 story are no more than minor skirmishes in the all-over scheme of the French Revolution, but the fatalities are just as dead, nonetheless.

A couple of doughty actors from Down Under head this cast:
  • Hugh Jackman ("Real Steel") is Jean Valjean, the fellow who stole a loaf of bread for his starving little sister and as a result, spent many years behind bars. (Victor Hugo, like his contemporary Charles Dickens, born 10 years later, was a social reformer.) Mr. Jackman has been embraced by the Broadway crowd and is an established musical star. When he rescues little Cosette from the rapacious couple who have been her caretakers, he sings "Suddenly," the only original song written for this movie.
  • Russell Crowe ("A Beautiful Mind") is Javert, the steadfast policeman determined to uphold the law after Valjean breaks parole. Until recently Mr. Crowe had his own musical group, "30 Odd Foot of Grunts" with which he performed when not acting or living on his cattle station in the Outback. Usually Javert is played by a powerful baritone and although Crowe gives it his all, this just isn't his type of music.
  • Anne Hathaway ("The Dark Knight Rises") is Fantine, the desperate woman who sells her hair to wig-makers in order to feed her daughter Cosette. We've never known Ms. Hathaway to sing professionally before, but she doesn't embarrass herself; "I Dreamed a Dream" is filmed "live" and is heartfelt and personal.
  • Samantha Barks ("Les Misérables in Concert: the 25th Anniversary") is the adult version of Éponine, the heartbreakingly loyal young woman who loves the rebel Marius. It is immediately obvious that Barks is a stage-trained musical performer however her death-scene "A Little Fall of Rain" is poignant but almost whispered.
  • Amanda Seyfreid ("Gone") is the young adult Cosette, taken under Jean Valjean's powerful wing with no hint remaining of her mother's sacrifice. Seyfreid was formerly in "Mamma Mia!" Enough said about her.
  • Eddie Redmayne ("My Week With Marilyn") is the rebel Marius, who is head-over-heels in love with Cosette. Redmayne's work has been (mostly) with BBC-type miniseries ("The Pillars of the Earth" and "Tess of the D'Urbervilles") but no musicals. He sings "Red and Black," remember that one?
  • Colm Wilkinson ("Evita" on stage) is the priest who saves Valjean when he steals the silver at the beginning, and he is there to usher him into Heaven at the end. I loved this perfect touch, as he was the ultimate Jean Valjean on stage. I have the DVD of the 25th Anniversary Concert and he is thrilling! I'm glad they asked him to appear here.
This story covers a generation and has so many layers you may be tempted to see it again just to master the wonderful plot. Unless, of course, you read Victor Hugo's book, first published in 1862. I know I did...about a century later...smile...

I'm sorry the production design people chose to ramp up the disgusting bits and the fright wigs. There really is no need for this over-the-top assault, the story can stand on its own without sensationalism. Tsk, tsk....

FOOTNOTE: Hathaway DID win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role.
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Here is a link to a preview so you can see what the buzz is all about:
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