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Sacha Baron Cohen
"Les Miserables" is unlike any film
musical I've ever seen. The level of
emotion is unmatched. The performances
are out of this world. The story is
ambitious, and the scope is huge. It's at
once a very personal story about its
various characters, but at the same time,
these people are singing for a generation, that has fascinating parallels to events going
on today. It's an incredible feat that I didn't think could be committed to film so well.
Director Tom Hooper certainly had the courage of his convictions. A film adaptation of
Cameron Mackintosh and Claude Michel Schonberg's beloved stage musical "Les
Miserables" had been in development hell since the mid 1980s. The pieces for a
successful film adaptation never quite came together. A non-musical adaptation of
Victor Hugo's novel starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman came out in 1998, but that
film was sub-par at best.
Hooper assembled a cast that doesn't seem
like the best fit for a musical, including Hugh
Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway,
none of which, to my knowledge, are trained
singers. He then decided that these actors,
as well as everyone else in the cast, would
sing live, instead of lip-synching to studio-
prerecorded tracks. I had not known that
movie musicals typically did it this way, and
that singing live was a new and scary thing.
This element would heighten emotion for
the audience. This idea is superb and will
show to be a game-changer for movie musicals. Each actor's performance is more
intimate and personal than they would have been otherwise. Hooper really wants the
viewer to connect emotionally with these characters, and for the most part, we connect
with these people deeply.
"Les Mis" follows Jean Valjean (Jackman), a man who was jailed for nineteen years for
stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family - five years for the theft, and thereafter for
subsequent attempts to escape. He breaks his parole, and police inspector Javert
(Crowe) dedicates his life to imprisoning Valjean again. Valjean comes across Fantine
(Hathaway), an unwed mother who, after unjustly losing her job, is degraded to the
point of no return, being forced to sell her hair, her teeth, her body and her dignity.
Valjean promises Fantine that he will raise her daughter Cosette as his own, in her
absence. Valjean then saves Cosette from the Thenardiers(Sacha Baron Cohen and
Helena Bonham Carter, pairing up in their second movie musical), neglectful guardians
and scheming inkeepers, and the story picks up years later, where Cosette is a young
woman (Amanda Seyfried), living mostly in peace. A young revolutionary Marius (Eddie
Redmayne) falls in love with her. The Thenardier's destitute biological daughter Eponine
has a hopeless and unrequited love for Marius. These young characters dive headfirst
into what would become a very important part of the French Revolution.
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