COURTESY PHOTOMen of song: Russell Crowe

COURTESY PHOTOMen of song: Russell Crowe

'Les Miz' a big, bold, emotional movie musical

As its redemptive hero toils on a chain gang, traverses a mountain, trudges through sewers and enters a revolutionary barricade, (among other intense trials), the movie musical “Les Miserables” is a zero-subtlety spectacle for the Occupy age and the current Oscar-campaign climes.

But it also is a risk-taking and frequently affecting movie that sings its not entirely artificial heart out.

Directed by Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) and adapted from the Cameron Mackintosh-produced Broadway sensation based on Victor Hugo’s massive novel, the film differs from most movie musicals: It is entirely sung, rather than sung and spoken, and sung live by the actors rather than prerecorded and lip-synced.

The results, like a considerable amount of the film, have rough aspects but contain crucial emotional goods.

Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, who, in 1815, is a bearded chain-gang convict sentenced 19 years prior for stealing bread. He is released but breaks parole and consequently triggers the relentless pursuit of the policeman Javert (Russell Crowe).

A bishop’s kindness inspires Valjean to abandon his thieving ways. He becomes a respectable mayor and a loving father to Cosette, the young daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a dying cast-out factory worker who sells her hair, her teeth and her body to survive.

The grown-up Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) falls in love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a revolutionary involved in the 1832 uprising. In the barricade, Valjean encounters Javert and demonstrates impressive inner character.

Additional heroics, including the famed sewer episode, solidify Valjean’s salvation.

Hooper serves up ample spectacle – CGI scenery, ambitious theatrical staging, Dickensian poverty – which sometimes eclipses the characters.

The Valjean-Javert tension, already compromised by mismatched performances of musical-theater-versed Jackman and the more limited Crowe, particularly suffers.

Additionally, Hooper and four screenwriters devote excessive time to Seyfried’s Cosette, a bland character who serves primarily as an object of fatherly and romantic affection.

But there is enough here, from the gritty Parisian streets to the contemporary appeal of the student uprising, that hooks, and holds,  viewers.

Echoing his “King’s Speech” achievements, Hooper makes the material moving and human simply by putting the camera on his able actors and letting them work. The live-singing approach, once you get used to the super-close-ups accompanying it, yields an intimacy and emotional charge.

Jackman, who can sing and act, is an ideal anchor.  Hathaway, whose Fantine exists largely to personify misery, delivers the quality, vibrantly, and the showstopper “I Dreamed a Dream” – though you wish the TB-stricken Fantine’s movie-star glow were toned down.

Redmayne, soulfully singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” also stands out.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, playing the swindling innkeepers and singing “Master of the House,” provide colorful comic relief.

REVIEW
Les Miserables
three stars
Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried
Written by William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Herbert Kretzmer
Directed by Tom Hooper
Rated PG-13
Running time 2 hours 32 minutes

Anne HathawayartsentertainmentMoviesTom Hooper

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

(Examiner file photo)
Charter amendment effort would replace elected school board with appointed body

Critics of the San Francisco Unified School District board on Monday formally… Continue reading

Jill Bonny, owner of Studio Kazoku tattoo parlor in the Haight, tattoos client Lam Vo on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
No one was fighting for tattoo artists, so they started advocating for themselves

Jill Bonny has been tattooing in the Bay Area since 2000. Four… Continue reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

Stanford’s Ashten Prechtel shoots a layup as three Oregon State defenders look on during a Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament semifinal game on Friday, March 5, 2021, at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. Bryan Steffy/Pac-12 Pool Photo
No. 4 Stanford women cruise to Pac-12 Tournament title

Kiana Williams is heating up just in time to head home. The… Continue reading

At a rally in February, Monthanus Ratanapakdee, left, and Eric Lawson remember Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man who died after he was pushed to the pavement in San Francisco. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Examiner file photo)
The criminal justice system can’t fix what’s wrong in our community

My 87-year-old mother walks gingerly, slowly, deliberately, one step in front of… Continue reading

Most Read