Review: Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Film review: Les Miserables

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

Director: Tom Hooper

Indian Express Rating: ***

Victor Hugo's novel is as much about the characters as the circumstances that shape them. A film, even at 158 minutes, can't be expected to go into all that. More an adaptation of the longest-running musical Les Miserables based on the novel, that was first staged in 1985 and has since won over 100 awards, the film remains true to this version's spirit, its songs and even how it is picturised visually. Does it do justice to Hugo's underlying theme of oppression, liberation, redemption and change is another matter altogether.

For lost somewhere in the relentless singing and the overwrought performance of Hugh Jackman is that sense of a society in change. Hugo told that through his four main characters of Valjean (Jackman), Fantine (Hathaway), Javert (Crowe) and Marius (Redmayne) yes, but each of them stood for a section of society held prisoner by its own constrictions. The goodness of a few sometimes soared above those constrictions, but the film has no time for them.

It's the character of Valjean, the moral centre of the story, who suffers most as a result. His dilemmas and handwringing are too visibly played out to seem real. And Jackman doesn't have the depth to make it seem like coming from somewhere deeper within. Crowe's singing isn't as good but his Inspector Javert, Valjean's arch enemy who is as tortured but won't acknowledge it, on the other hand visibly rests on a precipice as director Hooper never lets us forget.

That is the other problem with Hooper. His direction style is one of reiteration and of mounting spectacles (a contrast from his previous The King's Speech), and the most glaring example is when Javert and Valjean are introduced to us. Valjean is hauling a ship and later a pole, which will immediately draw to mind a certain someone dragging a cross. It's meant to impress but leaves no impression.

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