Monday night was the official premiere of the new Les Miserables film, based on the international hit Broadway musical by Boublil & Schönberg, and you know what that means; I can “officially” give you my review.
By David Davila (Playwright / Songwriter)
Within ten minutes of watching Tom Hooper's new film version of Les Misérables I was bawling my eyes out. It happened when Hugh Jackman, who fully becomes the fugitive Jean Valjean in a career changing performance, looks directly into the camera while praying, as if staring directly into the soul of each audience member, and asks the question "What have I done?" The exquisitely acted performance captures the raw emotion of the miserable people who live a life of squalor in a post-revolution France.
By this time you've probably heard that this Les Misérables Movie-Musical, based on the stage version of the same name, was filmed using live vocal performances from the A-list Hollywood cast - with their accompaniment playing directly into their ears. It was a highly publicized gamble that paid off for the film allowing the actors to take liberties with their performances. What is delivered in the end is one of the most remarkable cinematic masterpieces of all time.
(Take a sneak peak at innovative method of filming the music live.)
The 2012 version of Les Miserables will be remembered for a hundred years or more and will find a permanent place in the canon of classic films like GONE WITH THE WIND, THE COLOR PURPLE, CASA BLANCA, and TITANIC.
Everything about this film is astonishing. From the inspired costumes by Paco Delgado, to the imaginative production design by Eve Stewart that recalls the original Broadway set while remaining cinematic and true to history. The cinematography by Danny Cohen is particularly brilliant in several key scenes where songs were captured in one take. The scene that introduces the character of Gavroche is one movie moment that gave me chills as the young boy follows an upper-class stage coach through the crowded slums and to a fiery protest. It is a testamant to director, Tom Hooper's imagination that this movie, which no one ever thought would happen, not only happens, but makes history.
(Take a behind the scenes look at the costume designs of Les Mis.)
Anne Hathaway is everything that people are expecting her to be. As the character of Fantine, Hathaway delves to the deepest despairs of humanity to contemplate her regrets at the many bad choices that led her to a life of prostitution. The audience barely breaths throughout her show-stopping rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," and it will be hard for any actress to top her this Oscar-season.
Hugh Jackman, as mentioned earlier, transforms himself into Jean Valjean constantly trying to find the good in people that the rest of the world have shunned. His mercy, and love, are truly genuine in this performance, and his delivery of the well-crafted new song, "Suddenly," brings a new awareness to the character of Valjean as a father to a young orphan. Jackman brought me to tears, not once, but thrice. It will be a tight race for best actor this year as he goes directly up against the front-runner Day Lewis as Lincoln.
The weak link, vocally, is Russel Crowe whose rock-tenor vocals do not always jive with the bass-baritone fach traditionally associated with the character of Javert. However, he embodies the character to the core, and though his singing voice may be more suited for a Skidrow cover band, his delivery is adequate and does not detract from the overall quality of the film.
The other supporting players deliver as well. Amanda Seyfried proves she's an actress to be reckoned with and provides vocals in a classic Hollywood style reminiscent of Jeanette MacDonald's squeaky soprano of the 1930's. Samantha Barks shines like silver in her movie debut showing that she is a star to watch with her delicate delivery of "On My Own." And a mouth-watering Aaron Tveit, direct from Broadway, reminds us that Les Misérables is the opera of our age, with his crisp tenor that echoes through the speakers as if off the walls of the Imperial theatre.
The most compelling breakout performance of the movie however comes from the young Eddie Redmayne who, though he has starred in several films, and even won a Tony award for his performance in RED, seems to have little name recognition. That all changes with this heart wrenching and scene stealing performance. The dreamy strawberry blonde is sure to be featured on the cover of tween magazines soon enough, and may even add an Academy Award to his collection of fireplace trophies this year. I assure you that though it is Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway that will bring people into the theatres to see this movie the first time, it is Eddie Redmayne's performance that will bring people back the second time.
Though die-hard fans of the original Broadway musical may find themselves upset to say farewell to certain musical numbers like "Turning," they will not be shrugging for long. This movie has made cuts to produce a tight film, that at almost three hours long feels like a journey that you do not want to end. Any sacrifices to the score were sacrifices that were made to create this marvel of a movie, and a marvel it is.
From the dazzling streets that transform into barricades to the epic finale featuring a surprising recapitulation by an early player that will have even the most faithful of cynics in tears, Les Misérables is an unforgettable monument to opera, revolution, and the art of making motion pictures.
Do not walk to see this movie; RUN! Buy your tickets now, and line up early. This will be a movie that you'll remember your whole life.
DAVID DAVILA is half of the song-writing duo Havrilla & Davila, author of the Tex-Mex plays ADAN Y JULIO, MEN OF GOD, CREDO, REQUERDOS OF MY LIFE, and AZTEC PIRATES AND THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE ON MARS. He is a self proclaimed Voxist, a Diva enthusiast, and founder of Lone Star Theatre Co. Wanna talk about it? www.daviddavila.net
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