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Les Miserables (2012): Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried

Les Miserables (The Miserable, The Wretched) opens vividly and grandly, in the year of 1815, in France, with Hugh Jackman, Jean Valjean, a gaunt and emancipated prisoner straining on ropes in violent water with several dozen men singing together on a massive prison ship.  The camera shifts upwards to the impressive Russell Crowe, Inspector Javert, and ultimately Valjean's law enforcer.  The set is expansive, filled with named actors promising to be an explosive drama for fans of the novel and Broadway play, Les Miserables. Yet, somehow the strained singsong by these famed thespians does not capture the gut wrenching emotion that audiences have come to know. 

Les Miserables is a beloved story, by Victor Hugo, which follows the lives and interactions of several characters, primarily focusing on the life of Jean Valjean.  The novel is about love, law, redemption's and revolution in the 19th- century France.

The one shining onscreen moment is Anne Hathaway, playing Fantine, as the seamstress unfortunately and sadly turned prostitute.  Hathaway's brilliant performance is captured through her eyes and voice as she belts out "I Dreamed a Dream".  Amanda Seyfried, Cosette, along with Eddie Redmayne, Marius, are charmingly young and in love. The comic relief and perhaps the best part of the movie, are Sacha Baron Cohen, and Helena Bonham Carter playing Madame and Monsiuer Thenardier.  The rendition of "Master of the House" is pure delight.   Jackman is outstanding as Valjean and Crowe is physically imposing as Javert. 

The sets are breathtaking, the visual emoting skills from the actors pitch perfect, content eerily familiar, but alas the crooning by the silver screens stars was fragile.  Conversely, when the supporting professionally trained singing cast erupted into song the film brightened and was engaging.  The director missed the mark by hiring dramatic actors with raspy voices rather than celebrated musical stage actors.  Thus, Les Miserables falls flat with this combination and seems a bit too long.  After all, it is the glorious melodies on Broadway that captured the hearts, minds and souls bringing the audiences to their feet with standing ovations.  Moral of the story - there is a reason successful singing stage actors rarely make it on the big screen and vice versa.  After all is said and done, if a fan of Les Miserables, even with the inferior warbling, one will still want to see this epic on the big screen.




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