Hello, my little Wanderers!
I’m back with another post. Today I’m going to talk about the movie Les Miserables by Tom Hooper.
Director: Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”)
Screenplay: William Nicholson
Based on the book “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo
Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter.
The story is in France, 1815. A criminal named Jean Valjean just ended his time in prison (nineteen years) and is released and paroled.The man who has been in charge of watching him, Javert, tells him that he will be shadowing him and anywhere he goes he has to show the police officers the paper he has been given (which explains he has been in prison and technically is still a convict). Unfortunately, for this same reasons he has been deemed incapable of handling any type of jobs and scorned. That is until he arrives to a church and the Bishop of Dagne receives him with open arms. Valjean, confused and afraid, decides to steal everything he can while the Bishop and nuns are asleep, but is caught on his way out by police officers and brought back to the church to return what he stole. The bishop then surprises the officers and Valjean when he starts giving him everything of value and lies to the officers telling them that the thing Valjean had he had given them to him. The officers are unable to do anything and thus, left. At this time, Valjean decides to break his parole papers and escape, to stop Javert from following and live with a false identity the rest of his life.
Years pass, and we meet a new character. A seamstress called Fantine, who is simply dismissed by the foreman after he discovered she had an illegitimate daughter and claims she is woman of questionable morals. As it happens, the last owner of the factory is Valjean, who has managed to redeem himself to end up being a respectable citizen, by hiding his true identity. After learning that Fantine has been forced into prostitution, and becoming gravely ill and currently in her deathbed, decides to take care of her daughter, Cosette, adopting her as if she was his own. Cosette is in charge of ruthless innkeeper Thenardier and his wife, who despite the money send by Fantine that pays for care for his daughter, is forced to sweep the inn and perform other humiliating tasks while being lied about her mother. Valjean has no other choice than to buy her freedom and save her from the clutches of the evil caretakers.
Meanwhile, Javert and Valjean cross paths without the former knowing the true identity of the latter, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stop Javert from suspecting. The tenacity of former guardian to catch the escaped prisoner is legendary. The moral dilemma of our protagonist is immense, but ultimately decides to confess to save the innocent prisoner, which automatically marks the return to the underground and hide in the shadows again. Now also with her newly adopted daughter in tow.
Years continue passing and Cosette becomes an attractive young lady. We are now in Paris in the year of 1832, with the bourgeois revolution in the making. The young revolutionary Marius prepares with his teammates barricades, a popular uprising, when he crosses paths with Cosette, his hearn being captured by her at first sight. Marius asks Eponine, -secretly in love with him, and youngest daughter of the Thénadier couple, and therefore raised with Cosette- to introduce them and put a good word about him. The events from now will rush, as Javert starts to stalk Valjean and his life and the identity he has built is in risk of being jeopardized. He and his daughter must flee again only now Cosette has found love in Marius and doesn’t want to leave him. Valjean realizes this and in a selfless act, the night before the revolt joins the revolutionaries to prevent the true love of his daughter to be killed by the Parisian army. It is in this historical context and Javert always at his heels, where the final climax of this story of love, honor, fate and redemption is achieved.
When trying to carry large cinema works written things like this. A universal literary gem, turn one of the most acclaimed adaptations of the Broadway musical genre for over thirty years, deserved a film to match. Pulling budget and a great cast, which made people forget the former adaptation and failures of this book and Broadway musical -in wikipedia adaptations have counted more than ten-. At least there is the adaptation was done in 1998 with Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman. Or the miniseries in the 2000 starring Gérard Depardieu and John Malkovich.
However, the version at hand goes all in -apparently- a letter. A very risky thing to do a musical from top to bottom with occasional dialogue, a sort of filmed opera. I say what “apparently” because in the end it did not seem so irresponsible to make a direct adaptation of the musical that has triumphed in Paris, London and Broadway.
And despite all the effort to bring one of the most worthy versions of the French masterpiece of the nineteenth century and some occasional successes, as the movie ends up being tedious and slow and inconsistent (sometimes too slow or too fast). A tape has plenty of footage and musical numbers. This kills all epic possibilities of the approach, which could have told the story of the characters merely through their actions in the historical context in which it operates, but ultimately focuses on musical numbers accessories leaving us with the feeling that in the end is somewhat blurred, and additional scenes are missing. Something otherwise impossible to do because he had lengthened the footage to unbearable limits.
That is to say, a real contradiction that only has meaning if we go to the original literary or musical. This is where comes in theory always comment on the unfortunate book-film adaptations: what fits in 700 pages, does not have to fit into two hours of footage nor it has to be just as good. A novel is meant to be read in several days or weeks. Plenty of time to develop descriptions, the personality of the characters, testing and digressions of any moral field … In a film we have to cut where it is possible, the footage is what it is, period. You have to put in about two hours, a beginning, development and end. All I want to say is that the characters have to be suggested rather than narrated (or sung, given the present case). And besides, the approach needs to attract, and until the knot can not go much around the bush or risk losing the viewer runs. Of course there are exceptions great films of great footage Lawrence of Arabia style, but make these works are not available to everyone and I fear that Tom Hooper is not David Lean, however much he had made The King’s Speech. And the adaptation of the work from a musical, spends three quarters of the same, except further that in this case there are fifteen minute breaks between acts.
Not everything will be bad. Characters that stand out are Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. They are huge, and made a superb performances, especially in musical terms. One of the most developed characters and whole plot revolves around them, we understand well Javert’s and Valjean’s motivations.Anne Hathaway is also perfect, though tending to overact. The rest happens what I said before, they lack minute scene without singing. For example, it seems that nobody told Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter they were not in Sweeney Todd, no matter how funny/comic they tried to make their characters.
Another strength of the film is the spectacular production design and setting. From the galleys at the beginning, the revolutionary Paris of the nineteenth century, all decorated tried to give an epic touch to the plot, that the musical numbers seem determined to remove.
As a final conclusion, the truth is that Les Miserables leaves a contradictory after taste. On one side it is a great epic story and talks about the great miseries and virtues of man. The honor, fate and redemption both divine and human of our actions. The problem is that precisely this is no merit of the film but the work on which it is based. Technically it is very well done, and we must recognize the merit of interpretations whenever an actor sand their part. However, for me outweighs the tedious pace of the plot. That is why for me this film does not reach the approved, which does not mean that it can be recommended more people believe that since the film experience of each can be different. Warned are.
Classification: Between passable and bad.
Best: Interpretations of Jackman, Crowe and Hathaway. The decoration.
Worst: Excessive footage. Not live up to level narrative rhythm.
Would I watch it agian?: No. Nothing else to say.
Would I recommend it?: Yes; as I said before, I think a lot of people do not mind the two hours or so, and who value better the musical numbers than I do.
That’s all my little Wanderers, hope to see you soon!