On Christmas night I ventured out with my husband to see Les Miserables starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. I had been excited about this Broadway musical's theatrical release for some time, especially after learning the actors sang the songs live rather than recording them before or after the movie had finished production. I believed this would give so much more feeling to the characters and to each scene, almost as if they were truly living the moment, with the emotion bubbling up as they played their part. I was not wrong -- Les Miserables was truly a musical masterpiece on the big screen.
Director Tom Hooper did a great job with casting. You can't really go wrong with Hugh Jackman in any role. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jackman last year and it was captivating listening to him talk about how he preps for his movies. I have a feeling this movie was a bit different than the rest, though. Jackman is one of the most well-rounded actors of our time, and this is yet another chance for him to show us his range. Every song and every line of Valjean's character was that of complete immersion by Jackman. His eyes alone portrayed the anger and shame of that who is Jean Valjean, a convict harshly sentenced for stealing a loaf of bread. Nineteen years later, as he embraces the chance to turn his life around and become a charitable man, he also lives everyday looking over his shoulder. Because his entire life is based on a lie and one that he knows will catch up to him. And this is no way to live.
Russell Crowe convinces you that he is Javert, or more so convinces you that he is the law. He'll stop at nothing to take down Valjean and when this objective is taken from him, his world is turned upside down. He is suddenly a man lost and he projects that with much fear. I had no idea Russell Crowe had the belt he shows off in Les Miserable. I was quite impressed when his first song came up. It did seem that Crowe was possibly not as on board with the live singing as the rest of the cast. I realize his role is much more straight-laced and serious than the others, playing a man of the law, but he lacked the genuine emotion his cast mates delivered.
Anne Hathaway has been the main focus thus far in interviews and commercials and she does nail her role as Fantine, the dying prostitute. However I see so much more in the character and it seems Hathaway did as well. Fantine is a desperate mother who spirals out of control trying to keep her daughter Cosette safe. It's a desperation not many of us can understand. It seems that once they take away her beautiful hair, she loses all her hope for her own future. Suddenly she truly understands that there is nothing left for her, but that she can ensure a better life for Cosette. I cried while she sang "I Dreamed a Dream" not because of the words I've heard so many times before, but because of the raw emotion Hathaway put behind the words. It wasn't always beautiful, as her voice would crack in tears, but it always felt real.
My favorite actor however was the young Daniel Huttlestone, who plays Gavroche. This child is unbelievably talented and stole every scene in which he appeared. Those clipped notes he sings in "Look Down" give the audience a feeling of being part of a conversation, as if he is just telling them about his life rather than singing them a song. Gavroche is a melting pot of necessity in Les Miserables. He is a bit of comic relief, always piping in with something to make you smile, but he also encompasses everything that is the revolution. He is a man who will not be a slave again, and his life about to start when tomorrow comes. And when you see the movie, you'll know why this character is so critical and why a strong child actor is so necessary to rally the audience. I don't think there could have possibly been one better than Daniel Huttlestone.
When you venture out to see Les Miserables, go with an open mind and an open heart. Allow the actors to tell their story their way, which may be different than what you've experienced in the past. Remember this live singing is new not only to us, but to them as well. I think they did a tremendous job full of emotion and I'll be going back for seconds.
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