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dir Tom Hooper
scr William Nicholson, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone, Aaron Tveit, Isabelle Allen, Colm Wilkinson
release US 25.Dec.12, UK 11.Jan.13
12/UK Universal 2h37
Do you hear the people sing? Allen and Jackman
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The long-running stage musical finally gets a film version, complete with a first-rate cast that sang the songs live as dialog. This gives the film an intensely personal kick, which it badly needs because the epic story has so many huge emotional moments that it's almost overwhelming.
After serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean (Jackman) is threatened by tenacious policeman Javert (Crowe) if he dares to break parole. But it's 1815, times are tough, and an act of forgiveness straightens Valjean's resolve. Years later he's as a politician-businessman who helps the destitute Fantine (Hathaway) by rescuing her young daughter Cosette (Allen) from the greedy Thenardiers (Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter). More time passes, and Valjean and Cosette (now Seyfried) are in Paris, where a young revolutionary Marius (Redmayne) falls for Cosette. And Javert is still on his tail.
Building on the operatic tone, Hooper shoots each power-ballad as if it's the monster show-stopper. But how can a film build to a crescendo of emotional catharsis when that's where it starts? The most powerful songs are early on, as Valjean discovers mercy in What Have I Done?, and Fantine ponders her tortured life in I Dreamed a Dream, a staggeringly intimate one-take performance by Hathaway. Later, Barks (as the Thenardiers' grown daughter, a rival for Marius' love) delivers a belting rendition of On My Own. And Redmayne is the film's best surprise with his piercingly emotive voice and the acting skills to back it up.
Technically, the film blends various production styles: full-on effects sequences, contained street sets and exterior location work involving thousands of extras. The shifts are sometimes jarring, as the camerawork changes from murky fisheye close-up to sun-drenched wide shots. It's almost like the stage play is waging its own revolution to take over the movie. But this at least adds realistic chaos to the settings.
In the end, the intensity of Victor Hugo's story wins us over with a story set in a turbulent time and place not so different from today. Although first produced in 1980, the musical taps into the current zeitgeist as it highlights how the yawning gulf between the powerful and the oppressed leads to protests in the streets. There's also a vivid depiction of clash between liberal-minded compassion and heartless judgmentalism. And in the end, the only thing that can save anyone is compassion and forgiveness.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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