Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Les Miserables"

First things first: I'm not what you would call an aficionado of musical theater or film, and I've never seen a stage production of "Les Miserables" (haven't read the book either, but was generally familiar with the story just based on what I've read and heard over the years).  Going to see the movie, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and I wasn't even sure that I'd like it that much.  So from the get-go, you should know that these are the observations of a non-expert.

With all that out of the way...

I liked it, quite a bit.  My attention never flagged during the film's nearly three hour running time, and though I wasn't on the edge of my seat like I was during "Django Unchained" or "The Dark Knight Rises" (films of similar length), that's still a good sign.

I thought Hugh Jackman was great as Valjean.  And while I don't disagree with the opinions of many that Russell Crowe can't sing a lick, I give him enormous credit for trying and thought that his approach - just belting it out, as best as he could - lent Javert a sense of believability (and gravitas, a word that has been used a lot with respect to the role, in reviews both pro and con); this viewer, at least, could understand the doggedness of Javert's seemingly illogical pursuit of Valjean, and that in part was due to Crowe's performance.

Now this is the part that will get me in trouble - while I agree that Anne Hathaway was great, I'm not quite sure I understand the intensity of the response to her performance.  You won't hear me complain when she wins the Academy Award in February (which seems a foregone conclusion), but frankly I wish her nomination would be for "The Dark Knight Rises," a performance that everyone seems to have forgotten in light of her Fantine.

Tom Hooper's direction - from what I've read, he's being criticized for all the close-ups, but I can't say that they bothered me much.  The other decision that's getting a lot of ink is the live singing, which is impressive.  No, none of these performers are great singers, in the classical sense.  But having them sing live adds an immediacy to the work that otherwise would have been lost.

Overall, I'd be fine if "Les Miserables" captures the Best Picture Oscar.  It's not my favorite movie of the year, but it's a much greater accomplishment than last year's winner, "The Artist."  Good job, all.

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