To adapt a stage musical, an extremely popular one at that, onto the big screen requires a tremendous amount of determination, co-ordination and most importantly, a high level of knowledge. For director Tom Hooper and co to produce Les Misérables from the play is no easy task, especially when not only trying to be as faithful as possible to the original source but at the same time, to make a few steps away from it. Many stage musical adaptations have worked in the past, particularly in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, because they managed to grasp both a staged and cinematic atmosphere onto the screen. Thankfully the same can be said for Les Misérables but it still has weak links.
Following his Oscar winning success for The King's Speech, Tom Hooper took charge of behind the camera and once again, provides sublime direction. The stage play and Victor Hugo's novel has depression written all over it and there is so much negativity. However, along with practically every song in Les Misérables, Hooper created a great deal of passion. With this in mind, the songs became a way for each of the characters to entirely expose their inner selves and added such strong energy from within. However, Les Misérables is structured into three different stages and at times, it slightly lost a little steam. With the story being so broad and especially the 2 ½ hour duration, you eventually grow out of the songs and the story occasionally aims nowhere. The first two acts were rushed but the third one was slow. Still, Les Misérables needed to provide something more thought-provoking to the audience other than making them weep and listen to songs; and it did that admirably.
To cast actors in a feature without them being a solution for profitable advantage is difficult, especially when this one is based on such a popular musical. Also, the ability of passionate singing has to count for something. Still, Hugh Jackman cracked out of his shell and delivered a genuinely heartfelt performance as Jean Valjean. We see this character in three different stages of his life – as an imprisoned thief, a wealthy factory owner and a caring guardian. This guy suffers throughout the majority of the film and through Jackman's surprisingly impressive, energetic singing; we can emotionally connect to Valjean through these moments of his life. Jackman has always been a strong leading performer and once again, he did just that. Furthermore, Russell Crowe has received mixed responses not only regarding his singing abilities but his general performance in Les Misérables. Although he expressed signs of inner passion within police inspector Javert through singing, he was perhaps miscast for the role. He was not quite as despicable or as cruel that he should have been. Don't forget, this is the guy who played Maximus, Robin Hood, Jim Braddock and is about to play Jor-El and Noah! He is a great actor but he has 'hero' all over him. Therefore, his antagonist role in Les Misérables did not entirely work.
Meanwhile, Amanda Seyfried's performance as Fantine's child Cosette was somewhat flat. Seyfried may have had the physical attributes of Cosette but acting-wise, like Jayne Wisener in Sweeney Todd, she was not a very convincing central character and she mostly failed to grasp the emotional depth to her performance. Despite this, her singing was decent enough. The same can be said Eddie Redmayne too. He may have succeeded as a singer but he was also miscast in the film as he lacked the sophisticating charm of Marius Pontmercy and failed to grasp a realistic emotional connection between him and Seyfried as Cosette. However, Samantha Barks becomes easily the best of the youngsters as Éponine, a teenage girl madly in love with Marius. This character and performance from Barks becomes what Seyfried should have been.
Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen became the more eccentric additions to the cast as the Thénardiers, two housekeepers who are the parents of Épione and serve as Cosette’s temporary guardians. Together Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen provided a little comical humor and added more sophistication from a past musical adapted from a play (Sweeney Todd). Nevertheless, the obvious stand-out of Les Misérables is Anne Hathaway, who delivers the performance of her career as Fantine, a young factory worker turned prostitute. This character summarizes the entire film’s heart-breaking and emotionally shattering tone as we see this desperate young woman trying to support her child but results in despair and tragedy. Hathaway will steal and then break your heart to pieces, especially when she sings "I Dreamed A Dream". She deserves an Academy Award for that song alone!
Although Les Misérables is not strictly a historical film, it does have certain set-pieces of the past behind it. It worked perfectly for Tom Hooper in The King’s Speech and once again, grasping a historical atmosphere miraculously worked for him in this musical. Depending on what they’re hoping for, fans of the stage play (or even Victor Hugo’s novel) should be at least satisfied with Hooper’s adaptation of the tale. Nevertheless, this film adaptation has a few problems with acting and pacing but it still expresses a deal of depression and misery in a form of energetic passion and, thus, becomes a well-accomplished and gifted musical.