These days big screen musicals come in all different shapes and sizes. At one end of the scale you have regular movies where they just happen to sing a lot (like Pitch Perfect); at the other you have this movie adaptation of the 80s stage musical, where just about every line is sung.
An adaptation of French author Victor Hugo’s sprawling novel built around Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict released in 1815 only to find with his permanent parole he will never find a place in society.
A kindly Bishop turns him from bad to good but even when he becomes a wealthy factory owner and small-town mayor he’s still haunted when his former gaoler Javert (Russell Crowe) arrives to head the local police.
Meanwhile, factory worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is run out of her job when it’s discovered she’s sending money to her illegitimate daughter; she becomes a prostitute, Valjean is uncovered, he rescues her daughter, she grows up, there’s rebellion in the streets of Paris and let’s put it this way: if all you know of the musical is the handful of songs you’ve heard outside of it, there’s a good reason for that.
This is epic film-making that treats the original with the respect and reverence a Broadway smash deserves; trouble is, Broadway musicals can often be overblown, strident, pandering affairs built around flattering the audience for their class and good taste rather than being entertaining on their own merits.
There are good performances here, and on a technical level this musical works well.
But unless you have a high tolerance for people singing entire, not-that-impressive songs about emotions and situations you can grasp by the end of the first line, this two and a half hour film may be more than you can stomach.
3 out of 5
Les Miserables Australian release: 26th December, 2012 Official Site:Les Miserables Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen Director: Tom Hooper