Please allow me to begin this review by very clearly indicating "Les Miserables" is not exactly my cup of tea. And in case you're wondering, I do like a good cup of tea, but that's about as European and cultured as I get.
So I walked into the doors of "Les Miserables" knowing it's one of the most celebrated Broadway musicals of all time and one of the highly regarded tales in the genre.
Being a bit of a Hugh Jackman fan, I was intrigued with the idea of Wolverine the Musical, so I knew what I was getting myself into.
The theater was packed and when the film went to black and the credits began, widespread applause from the audience accompanied the soundtrack. People in the lobby were wiping tears. Many were still sobbing. Some ladies looked like raccoons with all the running mascara. They were obviously moved.
Me? I was just attempting to restore circulation to my legs after sitting through my second straight 2 1/2 hour-plus movie in the last two weeks.
The film featured singing the entire time. There was no simple dialogue. It was all sung. I mean c'mon, "Grease," "Bye Bye Birdie," "Oklahoma," "West Side Story" - even "Spider-Man the Musical" - featured some conversation not accompanied by a musical score.
"Les Miserables" is the tale of Jean Valjean (Jackman) who is paroled from a French prison in 1815 after serving 19 years for stealing bread to feed his nephew. Prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) - committed to law and justice - warns Valjean that if he violates parole, he will hunt him down.
The movie centers around Valjean, who has fallen as low as possible, searching for a place to lay his head and put food in his belly. Chased away from every potential opportunity, he is welcomed into the church by The Bishop of Digne. After learning of mercy, he is transformed and becomes a man dedicated to serving his fellow human being as a follower of God. He violates his parole and starts his life new. Eight years later he is operating a factory and is the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. When he learns that one of his former employees, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), was mistakenly fired and forced to turn to a life of prostitution to support her child, he promises her on her death bed he will care for her daughter as if she were his own. He takes the young Cosette,raising her with a life of privilege.
But his past comes back to haunt him as the duty-sworn Javert, now an inspector, shows up and begins his pursuit of the parole violator.
The story tracks several near escapes and winds up in the midst of a rebellion led by Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit). Marius falls for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), now a young adult, at first site. The feeling is mutual and the love story is set amidst the danger of a stand against the government and Valjean's efforts to remain hidden.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter add humor to the production as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier, a husband-wife team of innkeepers and hustlers.
The acting is amazing. The singing is not studio dubbed, but was instead performed live as the scenes were shot, an extremely unusual approach for a musical, but one which definitely pays off. You can feel the raw emotion in every song. I can't imagine the number of takes to get it right.
Jackman, Crowe, Hathaway, Seyfried and especially Redmayne display impressive vocal skills.
It's an amazing piece of work and should collect some hardware during award show season.
But it was so depressing. I mean hard-to-watch depressing at times, especially early on as you watch Fantine descend from a mother working in a factory to support her child, to a woman selling her hair, teeth and sexuality to continue providing for the child she never sees. Absolutely brutal. But man can she sing.
If you enjoy musicals, you're going to love "Les Miserables." If you don't, it's going to be a long 2 1/2 hours.
On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets ... scratch that, 5 tissue boxes, "Les Miserables" scores a hanky blowing 5 sheets on the runny nose index. I'm sure there are still people crying yet today. Make sure you grab a water or something to stay hydrated. Running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes. MPAA Rating: PG-13. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 in Spencer.