|The casts' Oscar performance was more enjoyable than the film itself.|
Steve already provided a thoughtful and in-depth analysis of Les Misérables, so I’m going to cut straight to the point with my assessment. I found the film to be the weakest of the 2012’s Best Picture contenders. Part of that has to do with this year’s strong slate, but, outside of that, I just wasn’t into the film, which left me pretty cold and uninterested (a major problem for a production that relies heavily on emotional investment).
To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of the stage production anyway, so the deck was stacked against the movie. I think Les Mis has a fantastic soundtrack, and the strength of the music can make for quite an emotional rollercoaster on the stage, but as a narrative, I’ve never been all that impressed. Other than two martyrs and a hardhead, every character is woefully underdeveloped. This is especially obvious in the case of Cosette, who’s nothing more than a plot device despite being the connecting tissue that binds most of the major characters together. In other words, she’s basically the human equivalent of a macguffin in an Indiana Jones film.
Getting back to the film itself, director Tom Hooper is a major part of the problem. Although I admire his decision to have the actors do all the singing live on set (a call that led to a well-deserved sound mixing Oscar), his cutting of the film is almost nonsensical at times, especially during the first hour or so. He makes the interesting choice to use extended close-ups during solos, but more often than not, that results in the whole affair seeming small when what he’s really going for is intimate (if that makes any sense).
|Samantha Barks and her distractingly tight corset.|
All of the actors do decent jobs with what their given. Hugh Jackman does most of the heavy lifting in this thing, and he’s solid throughout and has a great voice, so his Oscar nomination was hard won. And Anne Hathaway is fully-committed in the role that won her an Oscar. It’s essentially a one-note performance, and I wasn’t nearly as moved by the portrayal as many critics were, but girl’s a good actress and she sings pretty well, so that’s that.
Meanwhile, despite the plethora of criticism I’ve heard, I found Russell Crowe to be pretty good. Hooper does the man no favors with the way his exit scene was cut and staged, but Crowe lends a sense of gravitas to a relentless role that can get pretty frustrating for viewers at times. As for his singing voice – it’s not all that bad. He’s clearly not a match for his cast mates, but it’s not like he pulls a Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia. He carries the tune well enough, and his voice has a unique quality to it that contrasts nicely with the rest of the cast.
Oddly enough, I thought the film came across as a powerhouse during the Oscar ceremony itself. The clip reel they cut to showcase it was expertly edited, and the entire cast performed a fantastic medley on stage. If I hadn’t seen the movie already, I would’ve have been tricked into thinking this was a truly great movie musical. But regrettably, the spark from that telecast is not in the actual film. C+