Movie Review: Les Miserables

I watched Les Miserables yesterday. And I came out with mixed feelings, even though, the genres don’t affect me much when it comes to liking a movie or not (with the exception of horror movies, that I hate in general).

Few opening remarks
1. I had not read the epic book before watching the movie. I am aware of the theme, the critique and the story in general. But it’s not a literary piece that I have read in depth and have an opinion on.
2. The movie is largely true to the book. Few creative liberties had to be taken to contain the huge canvas
3. The movie is a musical. A lyrically musical movie. 100%. No general dialogues. Is the book like that?

With that out of the way, my real feelings. Oh, it’s a movie that has made with one and just one purpose. To try and win an Oscar. And everyone has given it their best to deserve a place at the podium. Almost the entire star cast is top of the class.

It’s so difficult to imagine Hugh Jackman, the man who played Wolverine, being Jean Valjean. The kind of transformation he goes through from one frame to another is a wonderful lesson in acting. His body and his personality changes with the evolution of Jean Valjean.

Russell Crowe as Javert has one of the more unidimensional characters in the movie, and yet he adds such strain to it that you can feel the depth of his conflict, most in his monologues atop the church and castles.

Anne Hathaway has a short role, and she shines as Fantine. From the mother to the bitter prostitute.

Eddie Raymond as Marius is another revelation. I am not sure about his body of work, but he delivers almost every moment. Except for one. The scene where Jean Valjean tells him his story, and asks him to keep it a secret from Cosette. In that one scene, he falters.

Amanda Seyfried has a pitiable role as Cosette, amongst these stellar characters. Not in the book, but in the cinematic adaptation, Cosette’s story has several flavors. Not here.

The surprise pack for me were the short but extremely beautifully played Eponine (played by Samantha Barks) and Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Eponine’s ten minute screen presence makes you root for her a lot more than you’d for Cosette. Huttlestone adds the right amount of innocence to Gavroche. At a certain point, you’re almost sure (if you have no idea where the movie is headed) that the revolution will happen not because of a cause, but because of Gavroche’s rallying voice. And it would be unfair to not mention the Thenardiers – played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (last remembered as Bellatrix Lestrange). While Sacha is top draw, Helena continues in her Bellatrix zone.

YET, and this is the point where I am no longer an intellectual – the movie wasn’t theatrical entertainment. I didn’t really enjoy watching it with nine other folks in the theater. The last similar movie that I saw was “Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaaye”. And I saw it on TV. The movie requires a heavy heavy level of concentration. In the lyrical moments, there are such tiny variations that reveal the change of momentum, that when it happened first, I missed the moment of guilt of Valjean.

It’s a movie not for faint hearted. It keeps you on your toes. It works you mind, your vocabulary, and your appreciation of subtlety. It wants you to focus really hard for the whole of 158 minutes of run time. And worse still, if you haven’t read the book, then it jumps. It doesn’t always logically explain, or wait for the explanation to sink in.

It’s a great work of art, but do you really appreciate the art? Or, are you looking for entertainment? If it’s the latter, save this one for a different day. Its a must watch. In peace.

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About Amit
Conventional, boring, believer, poet, Shayar (to be precise), lover of music, musical instruments, and all that can be called music (theoretically or metaphorically), jack of all master of none, more of a reader less of a writer, arbit philosopher, foolish debater.. and many more such things.. like so many people!

2 Responses to Movie Review: Les Miserables

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Fine review. A valiant effort to create a more authentic approach to the musical genre, Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables is often far too self-serious and humorless for its own good and not all of the actors can sing well, but the performances of Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway make up for some of the flaws.

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