Aza’s 2 Line Review – Les Miserables – An Exhilarating, Exasperating Musical Experience. It’s Grand, Intimate, Shambolic, Bombastic & Wholly Engrossing!

Let’s be honest I was hunting for big emotive describey words to open with. Yes, yes it’s true I’ve just seen LES MISERABLES – who wants to touch me? At 157 minutes you’d expect a bit of seat shuffling going on but nay everyone I saw this with sat transfixed while the film ran.

Tom Hooper, you might know him from a flick a couple of years back called THE KING’S SPEECH, you know THE KING’S SPEECH is the one about the small island community where the locals are terrorised by a giant great white shark that keeps eating them. Helena Bonham Carter played the shark remember??? Anywho – Hooper had the unenviable task of doing a filmic adaptation of what is possibly the most beloved stage musical of all time and he’s done a bang up job on it too.

Any criticisms or debates that are gonna come from this flick are going to be from the theatre purists vs the movie geeks. If, like me, you’ve already seen the stage version then going into the film version is going to be a different experience altogether and really should be treated like that – not compared.

For me – I was in this for the songs – that’s all Hoops had to do – get the songs out. With the much publicised ‘recorded live on set’ its even more of a carrot to see it – did he pull it off? Well with a cast like Hugh Jackman (Valjean), Rusty Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Samantha Barks (Eponine), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier) you’ve got a wall of talent at your disposal. So what’s the result?

It works. Everyone is extremely solid in this and it should be noted that most of these guys are movie actors not singers. Jackman’s presence from opening to close is one of stature and anchoring – he holds the whole thing together and his singing strength really shines. Crowe, whose probably the weakest of the lot, is very solid too and the expressionism through his face drives Javert more so than his vocal abilities. Seyfried, as an empassioned Cosette, is wistful and innocent which is played off solidly by an intense and immersive turn from Eddie Redmayne. But now for my two absolute stand outs – these two are the reasons you should see the film…

Samantha Barks, who has played Eponine in the London Stage Version, delivers my favourite song ON MY OWN with all the passion and heartbreak that the song demands. She owns the song and indeed Eponine. That is extended to her entire performance in the film – she’s so solid (clear that her years performing the musical must’ve helped) – and amidst such heavyweights Barks stands out.

And the #1 reason to see the film…. ANNE HATHAWAY. If you have any doubts about seeing LES MISERABLES, forgo them to see Fantine. Anne Hathaway has never been better – SHE STEALS THE MOVIE from everyone else – I liken her turn as Fantine to Sean Penn’s Harvey Milk, you lose Anne Hathaway in this and you get Fantine. And when she sings I DREAMED A DREAM I went giddy. It’s a gut wrenching, powerful, heartbreaking performance that will win her an Oscar. Anne Hathaway is flawless.

Production values and staging is all there, from the grand to the intimate, the swill of dirty streets to the snow and icy waters Hoopers team have delivered an 18th Century Paris to match the bombast of the story. Cinematography is solid and its editted handsomely.

I had such a good time with this – go see it on the biggest screen you can find with the loudest surround sound system in town and TURN IT UP!!!

LES MISERABLES releases in AUSTRALIA on DECEMBER 26, 2012 through UNIVERSAL PICTURES