STYLEetc sent film blogger Chris Byrne to check out the eagerly anticipated, star-studded film adaptation of Les Misérables this week. Here’s what he had to say:
Director Tom Hooper’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning The King’s Speech is an adaptation of the much loved musical stage show, Les Misérables. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables is an epic tale set against the backdrop of 19th century France. It highlights the harsh living conditions of the lower classes and their dissatisfaction with the government, culminating with a huge public rebellion in the streets of Paris. Woven into the social context is a powerful exploration of the human spirit. We see the characters love, suffer, sacrifice and hope as they battle their way through all that life throws at them.
Big Hollywood names had to battle themselves to secure the sought-after lead roles in this long-awaited production. Hugh Jackman (Valjean), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Russell Crowe (Javert), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) bring the characters to life with raw and honest performances.
Cleverly, Hooper made the decision to record the actors singing live for every take, giving them the freedom to live out the emotion of the dialogue without having to worry about miming convincingly to a pre-recorded performance. It is the first time a musical film adaptation has been made in this way and the technique clearly worked in making the scenes all the more powerful.
A stand out moment is Hathaway’s rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. It is bold, strong, raw and incredibly moving. Jackman is a smart choice for the lead role and sings his way through the dialogue expressively whilst maintaining the screen presence necessary to carry the film. Crowe goes all out in part tenor, part rock star which suits his character. Eddie Redmayne provides a strong supporting lead as Marius (love interest to Cosette), as does Samantha Barks who makes her film début as Éponine and steals the second half of the film.
The balance between elements of a theatre production and cinematic spectacle is handled beautifully. Epic location shots and lavish sets contrast with grimy streetscapes to bring 19th century France to life. Costume designer Paco Delgado had the task of dressing a cast of 4,000 for a story spanning 17 years and featuring the richest to the poorest of society. He does a fabulous job of depicting the period costumes believably whilst incorporating a sense of theatre in scenes where it wouldn’t detract from the narrative, such as the bright, colourful outfits worn by the Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) who look as though they are just about to walk on to a West End stage.
The movie pays homage to elements of the both the original novel and the beloved musical adaptation, delivering a satisfyingly dramatic cinematic experience. Expect to leave feeling like you’ve been through the mill emotionally, and with an urge to sing everything you say.
The film premieres nationwide on the 11th of January.
See Les Misérables on IMAX at Manchester’s Printworks. IMAX tickets are priced at £13.70 for an adult and £10.80 for children at peak times. Gallery seats are available at £17.75. Book your tickets here.
Watch the Les Misérables trailer: