“Les Misérables” (2012) Review
Being somewhat familiar with the premise of “Les Misérables”, I was not really anticipating the film adaptation. Yet, with all the praise it has been receiving now during award season, I had hope that the film could well exceed my expectations. That being said, a musical film is much different to review, as there are differences in the style in presentation.
Starting off, “Les Misérables” features a plot that has both positive and negative aspects. On a positive note, though the plot has some stereotypical aspects, it features some well-rounded characters. Through their development, the audience is drawn in making certain scenes have a heavier impact on the story and the viewer. Yet, at many points the plot itself feels a somewhat drawn out and a little too coincidental.
The characters themselves are well-played, with the cast giving some wonderful performance. Hugh Jackman is enthralling as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathway is terrific as Fantine. The best thing about the cast’s performance is that they all did quite a job with each musical piece, except for Russell Crowe who just sounded poor to me (he’s a great fit for Ridley Scott epics, but not musicals). I have to give this group credit for stepping outside their boundaries, and succeeding, on this one.
In line with the vocals, the soundtrack is wonderful. The composition for this musical is one of the best I’ve heard in any musical I’ve been to. With the larger scope used for the film (as opposed to what would be captured on stage), the bombastic nature of the soundtrack is perfectly fitting. Overall, the sound department gets my seal of approval for the production. Yet, one downside is that nearly (~99%) of all the dialogue in the film is sung. I know “Les Misérables” is a musical, but with everything being sung, it takes away the impact of each individual song, and doesn’t allow for the same type of interactions had certain sections been spoken. Further, the dialogue itself is unimpressive, though that seems more a fault of everything having to be designed to be sung, limiting some dialogue possibilities.
Outside of the musical side of things, one major issue I had with the film was the camera work. The camera seems to always be much too close to each character’s face, with a close-up being used for every main song. This becomes even worse when you have multiple characters singing at the same time, as the camera cuts from face to face as if it’s some sort of hip hop montage. To make matters worse, the camera never seems to actually stay fixed. I don’t mean on one character or setting, but I mean that the person holding the camera has a knack for being very shaky. This poor camera work doesn’t ruin the film, but definitely detracts from the overall experience.
Taken as a whole, “Les Misérables” is a decent film. It’s not bad, not great – just decent. The cast is surprisingly great, and the sound presentation is perfect, but the shaky camera work, constant singing, and average plot make the complete experience hit-or-miss. Everyone will have a different level of enjoyment with this one, and if you have an interest in seeing the film, you will enjoy yourself. For those on the fence, you will likely be disappointed.
Final Score: 6.2/10