Les Misérables ★★★½

When pronounced incorrectly, Tom Hooper's adaptation of the world's longest running musical might appear as a smelly comedy about a rundown Yorkshire drunkard. Fortunately, it's nothing of the sort. Yet, in spite of a largely bankable cast (no, Crowe, we're not looking at you) and some wonderful set pieces, it all just feels a little bit overdone.

That was always going to be the challenge in bringing this magnitudinous spectacle to the screen. The key lies in balancing out those heavy stabbings of drama with subtle moments of vulnerable emotions. The stage production has always flourished in this light, magnifying the stillness of the space. Here, however, we never really get that equilibrium.

There is a problem with this movie and that problem is Anne Hathaway. If there was ever a case where an actor's performance is too good for a film, then this is it. It's not that Jackman, Redmanye, Seyfried or Cohen/ Carter are weak. On the contrary, they stand at the hearty structure of the narrative. But, Hathaway's turn in the opening quarter is so emphatic and compelling that, for the rest of the story, we yearn for the same level of tenderness and force at the same time. And, unsurprisingly, we never get it.

It doesn't mean, however, that 'Les Mis' is devoid of satisfying moments hereafter. Cohen and Bonham-Carter, although slightly more reduced than usual, provide bucket loads of humour, while Barks and Redmayne pierce the soul, at times, through minimalistic though effective performances. And the live-singing really does add another layer of frailty.

Still, Hooper seems to be throwing too much rain in our face, blowing too much smoke across our screen, focusing on the extravagance of the musical genre while holding a claim to realism. As Les Miserable himself would say, "It cannae be done, Tom, cannae be done".

Brian liked this review