BWW Reviews: LES MISERABLES Movie - Passing the Candlesticks to a New Generation
While there is much to rave about in Les Miserables, there are weak spots that I fear may upset 'Mizzies' and regular film audiences alike. For instance, when I heard that Russell Crowe had been cast as Valjean's nemesis Javert, I was concerned as to how he would handle an iconic (and difficult) song like 'Stars'. At the time, I remember thinking that even if he was vocally underwhelming, he was a great fit for the Javert character which should have been able to overcome lack-luster vocals. Unfortunately, due to rigid acting and Tom Hooper's decision to have the actor's sing live, Crowe comes across as awkward and when he sings he is clearly out-classed by his cast mates.
The rest of the cast impress with their ability to tackle difficult material, with Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne as Eponine and Marius emerging as the real surprises of the season in terms of both acting abilitiy and vocal chops. Any girl who has spent her life being 'Team Epo' will undoubtedly be pleased with the gorgeous rendition of On My Own delivered by Barks, and Redmayne elevates Marius to heartthrob status which often is not the case on stage.
Finally, hardcore fans of the musical will enjoy the chance to spot many Les Miserables alumni and current West End stars throughout the course of the film. Most notable is Colm Wilkinson who appears as the Bishop of Digne, and has what is arguably one of the most emotionally powerful moments in the film (which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen it). I was fortunate enough to interview Colm about his experience on the film, and I feel as though he summed up my own feelings very well. He spoke of giving Hugh Jackman the candlesticks as a type of 'passing of the Les Miserables torch' and in many ways, the premiere of this film is a passing of the torch to a whole new generation of people who would have never seen it otherwise.
As theatre lovers and as 'Mizzies', I feel we have a duty to promote this film and embrace it the way Colm Wilkinson passed the candlesticks. In the end, no film version would ever live up to our unrealistic expectations. There would have always been choices we disagreed with, actors we didn't like, and things we would have wanted to see differently. What we need to remember and embrace is the fact that this film version is twenty-five years in the making, and ensures that the story we love so much will live on indefinitely. Les Miserables will find a whole new audience through the magic of film, and Victor Hugo's astonishing work will hopefully touch many more lives. That is something to celebrate this holiday season - and I'm honoured to pass my metaphorical candlesticks to the next generation.
Les Miserables opens nationwide on Christmas Day.