It was some twenty odd years ago when I saw, in the program for Les Miserables, that it was coming to movie theatres. Back in the late 90’s, Sony’s Tristar Pictures gave us the non-musical version. Luckily, a few years’ movies like Moulin Rouge successfully rekindled the interest in movie musicals. Since then, one-by-one Broadway shows like Chicago, Rent, Mama Mia and many others have come to the silver screen. However, for many, a proper movie musical version of Les Miserables was long over due. As someone that’s seen Les Miserables 3 times “on Broadway”, this film had twenty years of hopes held high to live up to.
I won’t beat around the bush. The movie was absolutely wonderful and true to its Broadway roots, while also adding so much more realism and sense of cinematic masterpiece that a stage experience just can’t deliver. Right off the bat, immediately after the opening credits, those first two powerful notes of the first song hit me right to the heart. Nearly EVERY SINGLE performer had the essence of their character perfect. You see clear and vividly detailed pain in Hugh Jackman’s Valjean, as well as in Anne Hathway’s Fontine.
As a Broadway musical brought to the silver screen, an important factor is the actor’s ability to sing. Unfortunately, in Joel Schumacher’s Phantom of the Opera movie musical Gerard Butler did only a mildly satisfactory job. In Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, every single actor sings perfectly, with one small caveat. While portraying the character of Javert wonderfully, vocally Russell Crowe’s could only be described as adequate or passable. Still, much better than Gerard Butler’s vocal performance as the Phantom of the Opera.
Much of all this is thanks to the director of the film Tom Hooper (who previously won Best Director for The King’s Speech). There are so many moments in the film that enhance the original Broadway show. What was a song for a chain gang is brought to life 150% bigger than any fan of the musical would expect. As mentioned before, each character’s pain and the depth of that pain is expressed by the characters. Even though I knew every scene and every lyric, so many shocking moments I knew were coming were made more powerful.
It’s highly likely this will be widely nominated at the next Academy Awards, if not deservedly awarded. If you ever saw Les Miserables on stage, you’ll love this movie. If you like movie musicals, you’ll love this movie.