Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Les Misérables | Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne | Review

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4_Chicks_SmallJacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Les Misérables | Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne | Review

Victor Hugo’s novel, made into a musical stage play 25 years ago, now graces the silver screen with all the extravagance of a diva reintroducing herself to the world. It's all there; the sweep and epic, the songs and agony, all taking place in France from 1815-1832.

It is the tale of poor, rich, unfortunate, blessed Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who after serving 19 years at hard labor (pulling boats into dry dock manually, no less) achieves parole. His crime? Stealing bread for his sister’s starving child.

Valjean begins a new life as a businessman and factory owner, even rising to the level of mayor of his village. To achieve this, he assumed a new identity knowing that his old one would condemn him to a life of desperation and poverty.

His old nemesis, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) hovers around the town, just on the edge of a dangerous recognition that would send Valjean back to prison.  Meanwhile Fantine (Anne Hathaway) has troubles of her own, having been sacked from her job in Valjean’s factory and forced to support Cosette, her daughter, by selling her hair and her teeth, and working as a prostitute.

Greedy, unscrupulous innkeepers Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) "care" for Cosette with cruelty and child labor until Valjean rescues her after making a promise to the dying Fantine.

The two are pursued intermittently by Javert as the years pass. The Thenardiers make trouble as well. Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) grows into a young woman as does the innkeepers daughter Eponine (Samantha Barks). Civil unrest breaks out in the form of the Paris Uprising of1832, just as unrequited love breaks out when Eponine pines for Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who in turn pines for Cosette. Valjean ages. Javert perseveres. Drama and music swirl about the screen like oversized, velvet capes.

Hugh Jackman proves once again (although it's hardly necessary) that he is capable of the most extreme polarity of emotions. Russell Crowe is a brave soul, charged with massive amounts of singing that he is only adequately capable of, but his drive gets him through. Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (one apparently must have three names to be a villain here) do what they do best - chew up scenes with gleeful relish, full of mischief, eccentricities, and conniving callousness.

Then we get to Anne Hathaway for the steal. I have never seen her this way. You have never seen her this way. As Fantine, she conveys the despair and humiliation of a mother who cannot provide for her child in any dignified way. Her song I Dreamed a Dream mesmerizes and holds the viewer with its power and emotion; it’s a sit-up-and-take notice performance that left this reviewer speechless for one full minute after its completion. I think Oscar will agree.

This is a regal production, with elaborate cinematography (Danny Cohen) and production design (Eve Stewart). Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) had the actors sing live as they were filmed for a sense of immediacy. It is successful for the most part, although Crowe tends to sound a bit overblown and cartoonish at times.

At 157 minutes there’s a long journey to take, but the performances are strong and transcendent, the music stirring and the story of a life lived on opposite sides of the law makes for a compelling, often exhilarating experience.

If you've always wanted to know what all of the fuss was about, this is the film that will explain it all.