I never do this, but I am so moved by Les Misérables I’ve got to get my emotions into words, and I figured I might as well share with all of you.
Forgive me if I ramble, because I’m still reeling over this movie.
A little background: I first saw this when I was 17 and during a very tumultuous time in my life. Certain songs–namely “I Dreamed A Dream–” moved me in ways I’ve never been able to describe. The score has always given me chills and at times brought tears to my eyes.
Onto the movie. I’d limited myself to seeing just a few clips because I wanted to be surprised, and because I didn’t want to get my expectations too high. After all, seeing it on the stage, even without being up close, is an experience that’s hard to match, and I’ve seen it three times.
Still, I’d heard so many great things that my expectations were pretty big. And they were absolutely exceeded.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
I’m not going to lie: I teared up at the first note, so I knew I was in for an emotional ride.
I never thought anyone could match Colm Wilkinson’s original portrayal of hero Jean Valjean, but Hugh Jackman did it. He was stellar and full of emotion, just like the rest of the cast.
Speaking of Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean makes an appearance in the film as the Bishop of Digne, the man who gives the convict a second chance. Of course he was fantastic.
You’ve probably heard some of the clips and know that every single cast member sang beautifully. But it was so much more than that. Every performance was raw and real. Because the actors didn’t use a playback and SANG LIVE DURING FILMING, you felt as though you were watching the stage production on steroids. Meaning the actors were able to add a depth to their performances I personally didn’t see on the stage.
And then there is Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway. I simply can’t describe how incredible her performance was. If you’ve seen the clip of her singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” you’re only getting a snippet. She is even better (yes!) in the vignettes during her prostitution horrors and when she is on her deathbed and sees her daughter, Cosette. Hathway wore very little makeup, if any. She cried–even sobbed–during much of her key parts. She stabbed you in the heart, and everyone in the theater felt it.
ETA: Just watched Anne Hathaway say this: “The depth of Fantine’s suffering gives life to the love you see in the rest of the film.” And THAT is why she is character that moves me so much. Also, Anne Hathaway’s mother played Fantine on the US Tour years ago. How cool is that?
Russell Crowe plays the antagonist Javert, and his performance truly surprised me. I knew he could act, but he can sing very well. Like the others, his voice carried a lot of emotion and I believed his performance.
And for comic relief, there are the innkeepers Thénardier and his pig of a wife. Their big scene comes after Fantine’s death, and it’s always been a breather. Sasha Baron Cohen and the always stellar Helena Bonham Carter simply nailed it.
The love story? Marius and Cosette have always been an after thought to me. I enjoyed it, but their songs never moved me like some of the others. Until tonight. Amanda Seyfried was great, and Eddie Redmayne even better. His pain after all his friends have been killed was evident in his voice and the tears he cried.
Most of the actors wore very little makeup as well, which made the performance all the more real. Between their vocal quality, the emotional rawness in their voices and the authenticity of their physical appearance, I truly forgot I was watching the movie and felt as though it was real life.
And the sets! The movie used the same sets you’ll see on stage, just in much grander fashion. Remember the famous barricade scene, when Enjolras, the leader of the student revolution, is killed and falls out the window and hangs upside down with the red flag? It’s there, and the sets are all true to the stage production.
Every single actor was perfectly cast, and every damned one more than delivered. It was obvious they were all as affected by the music and the story as we are, and they carried it through to their performances.
For me, the standouts were Hathaway, Crowe, and Redmayne, but no one disappointed.
And I think what truly puts the movie over the top is because the producers stayed VERY TRUE to the stage production. Between the sets and the smart move of having the actors look naturally, I really felt as though I were watching real life pass me by.
I cried on and off throughout the entire show, as did much of the theater. I cried on the way home when I tried to explain to my mother how affected I was. This was easily the best movie of the year for me and probably the best I’ve seen. I simply cannot remember any film moving me the way this one has, and this is the first time I truly wish I could thank everyone involved for bringing Les Miserablés to us with all the glory it should have.
If you’re considering seeing it, DO IT. This was truly an experience, and that’s the first time I can say that about any film.