Review Roundup (12/19): LES MISERABLES Movie
Scott Chitwood, ComingSoon: For those like me who don't regularly watch musicals, it does take a while to get used to everybody singing all of the time. There are no breaks here where characters deliver lines of dialogue. They sing every single line in the film. Fortunately the film is kicked off by Hugh Jackman and he sells it well. Jackman comes from a theatrical background, so he's in his element here. It doesn't take you long to roll with the musical thing. And the fact that they filmed the singing live on set and not with lip syncing to a pre-recorded track adds an interesting dimension to it. This is especially the case as they do long takes with all of the actors. The end result is something different yet interesting.
Grant Rollings, Sun Online: Because Tom Hooper has embraced the musical like no other director before. All the cast sang live on set, which produces an intensity of emotion missing in films such as Chicago. The moment Anne Hathaway's sunken yet angelic face fills the screen, as she sings I Dreamed A Dream with her voice cracking while it tastes a Mississippi sized tear, is one I won't forget.
Wesley Lovell, CinemaSight: Political statements aside, LES MISERABLES remains the crowd-pleasing sensation it was nearly thirty years ago. While the revolutionary aspect of the film is but a small aspect of the grander theme of atonement and redemption as part of Valjean's character development, there's no question that both play intimately well together and that the end result is a rowsing and celebratory experience. Not since the glory days of the movie musical in the 1950's and 1960's has a film so effectively captured an emotional zeitgeist. Easily comparable to the likes of West Side Story, The Sound of Music or Oliver!, LES MISERABLES is a musical for the ages. It's my personal favorite production from the last decade and will likely rank as one of my all-time favorites.
David Edelstein, NY Magazine: The tasteless bombardment that is LES MISERABLES would, under most circumstances, send audiences screaming from the theater, but the film is going to be a monster hit and award winner, and not entirely unjustly. After 30 or so of its 157 minutes, you build up a tolerance for those it's-alive-alive-alive! close-ups and begin to admire the gumption-along with the novelty of being worked over by such a big, shameless Broadway musical without having to pay Broadway prices. The authors (there are four credited screenwriters) have pared down Victor Hugo's great wallow of a novel to its dumb, pious moral (Christian forgiveness always wins, though you might not live to break out the Champagne), but the show has been audience-tested for decades and defiantly holds the screen, much like its French revolutionaries at the barricades.
Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail: I've seen the film three times and each time the film seemed to grow in stature. I go to bed with the songs from Les Miserables ringing in my ears. I think of One More Day, Red and Black, Do you Hear the People Sing, Bring Him Home and Little People (by the way Daniel Huttlestone's Gavroche is very striking).
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: One of the chief interests of the film is discovering the singing abilities of the notable actors assembled here, other than Jackman, whose musical prowess is well known. Crowe, who early in his career starred in The Rocky Horror Show and other musicals onstage in Australia, has a fine, husky baritone, while Eddie Redmayne surprises with a singing voice of lovely clarity. Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean onstage in London and New York, turns up here as the benevolent Bishop of Digne.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph: LES MISERABLES is only Hooper's fourth feature, and his directorial style is still bedding in: some big, comic-book camera angles feel a touch over-egged, as does the extraordinarily shallow focus he uses in close-up. But he marshals the spectacle so spectacularly that it hardly matters. Hooper's screenwriter William Nicholson (Shadowlands) has judiciously tinkered with the song order, which makes LES MISERABLES feel not only definitive, but utterly cinematic. You leave with not one song in your heart, but ten.
Justin Chang, Variety: As a faithful rendering of a justly beloved musical, "Les Miserables" will more than satisfy the show's legions of fans. Even so, director Tom Hooper and the producers have taken a number of artistic liberties with this lavish bigscreen interpretation: The squalor and upheaval of early 19th-century France are conveyed with a vividness that would have made Victor Hugo proud, heightened by the raw, hungry intensity of the actors' live oncamera vocals. Yet for all its expected highs, the adaptation has been managed with more gusto than grace; at the end of the day, this impassioned epic too often topples beneath the weight of its own grandiosity.
Jon Weisman, Variety: Best picture nominee? Fer sure. Best picture winner? Not necessarily, because while it is a film that soars in many places and is rock solid in others, "Les Miserables" also displays enough bumps and bruises to hurt it (and director Tom Hooper) in a close race. Some of the flaws I identified come from comparing it to the musical that I've held near and dear to my heart ever since I saw it Thanksgiving week 1987 in London - no doubt, a huge swath of Academy members have their own personal relationship with the film, and I find it a little hard to believe that they won't nitpick it.
Marlow Stern, Daily Beast: Nearly every number in Hooper's film is brilliantly performed, with other highlights including Jackman's rendition of "What Have I Done" following his silver theft, the camera skying upward to reveal a beautiful "eye of God" shot (a nifty trick repeated to equally thrilling effect several times throughout the film); the quodlibet "One Day More," with Hooper cutting to different members of the cast; and the heartbreaking ballad "On My Own," magnificently sung by Barks (who played the role on the West End). And of course, the revolutionary anthem "Do You Hear the People Sing" soars to the heavens.
Oliver Littelton, Indie Wire: Standing ovations and tear-stained handkerchiefs greeted showings on both coasts, along with a general consensus that the film is a triumphant screen version of the stage musical hit destined to be a big Oscar player. And while we wouldn't want to jump in until reviews officially drop next month, it's certainly the biggest threat to "Lincoln" at present, and might well turn out to be the big dog of the season.
Scott Feinberg, Hollywood Reporter: Whether or not the use of actors' live on-set singing (as opposed to re-recording it in post-production) actually enhances the believability of a film more than it compromises the quality of the music, audiences seem to have been sold on the former, thanks in large part to Universal's recent featurette about the practice. Moreover, any "first" makes for a great talking-point on the awards season campaign trail. (Incidentally, all of the musical numbers were also shot in close-up and uninterrupted takes.)
Steve Zeitchik, LA Times: There will be plenty of review takes later, so suffice to say that in-between the movie offers some rousing emotion and vivid set pieces, uneven pacing and the sight of Russell Crowe singing. (He's fine as the law-enforcing Javert but, like Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean and the other males in the cast, pales next to the women, Amanda Seyfried's Cosette and particularly Anne Hathaway's Fantine, whose single-take, close-up "I Dreamed a Dream" is bound to bring down multiplexes and land her on Oscar ballots.) Other Kleenex-producing musical numbers include the large-scale "Do You Hear The People Sing?," offered in reprise later in the film. (Samantha Barks' "On My Own" did not have the same effect on this reporter; others may disagree.)
Mike Ryan, Huffington Post: I will say, as a complete novice to the world of Les Miz (I've decided to go with Les Miz, by the way), I thought the film was wonderful and found myself momentarily confused only a handful of times. (This is arguably my fault for being easily confusable.) My personal favorite movie this year is still Argo, but after seeing Les Miz, my gut is telling me that it will beat both Argo and Lincoln for Best Picture. And the talk you may or may not have heard about Anne Hathaway being a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actress as Fantine is true. (Though, again, not knowing anything about Les Miz, I was honestly shocked by how little she is in this movie.)
Tom O'Neil, Gold Derby: Reviews are embargoed until Dec. 11 so it's tricky to discuss the film, but here goes. The audience flipped for it. It's (nearly) everything that "Les Miz" nuts hoped for. Eddie Redmayne is the big surprise. His performance wows and, yikes, who knew he could sing like that? Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter try to steal the film -- and the contents of every pocket in 19th-century Paris. But Carter can't win. Anne Hathaway has Best Supporting Actress in the bag and Hugh Jackman poses a serious threat to Daniel Day-Lewis' dominion over Best Actor.
More On: Tom Hooper, Working Title, Cameron Mackintosh, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks.