Wednesday, January 2, 2013
by Pa Rock
Les Miserables has been translated very successfully into film, but it remains, nevertheless, a property best suited to the stage. The film, which I had the pleasure of seeing on New Year’s Day, uses sweeping cinematography to bring the poverty, strife, and glory of revolutionary France to the big screen in large, lush images. And it is good, very, very good – and the movie audience in which I was seated broke into applause at the flag-waving finale. But still it lacked an essential element that was present in the staged version, the element of intimacy.
The movie was just too big, too grand, and often too impersonal. As one overtly obvious example, it was a challenge to form emotional bonds with the young French revolutionaries who were running through the streets shouting and singing with English accents.
But even so, it was a very good movie.
The acting was exceptional. Hugh Jackman delivered a standout performance as the ex-convict, Jean Valjean, whose evolving life served as a continual foil to the heartlessness of the state. Amanda Seyfried delivered well in the role of Cosette, an orphaned waif who was protected and raised by Valjean. Samantha Barks as the young revolutionary, Eponine, also gave a touching performance.
Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were stellar in their portrayal the Thenardier’s, a pair of fast-talking (and singing) con-artists who were always on the lookout for an easy sou. Cohen and Carter were absolutely perfect in their renditions of those two somewhat lovable scamps.
The other exceptional actor in this production was Eddie Redmayne who played Marius, a revolutionary from a prominent family who fell in love with Cosette and inadvertently trampled the heart of Eponine. Redmayne was mesmerizing – though not everyone in the audience thought so. I followed three older women out of the theatre who were commenting that he had been wrong for the role – basically because they regarded him as not being handsome enough. I had seen the actor earlier in the week playing a young monk in the movie The Black Death, and also noted that he is the male lead in the hit, My Week with Marilyn which is currently playing on cable. My prediction is that he will soon be a household name.
Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe also gave strong portrayals of their characters, though neither struck me as Oscar-worthy.
I recommend the film version of Les Miserables – unless there is a good stage production of it playing nearby.