Les Misérables, 2012
Directed by Tom Hooper
Wilson here. Mr. Struggan had to call an audible this week with his film review assignment. He was going to have me go see the new film Movie 43, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, considering the nearly unanimous bad reviews it’s received) it was not playing at the theater near me. Instead, he asked me to pick an Oscar contender that I hadn’t seen yet, so I caught a showing of Les Misérables.
I feel it is important to note, given the popularity of Les Mis, that I have never seen it before, neither on film nor on stage. I didn’t even know much about the story going into it. My suspicion is that this fact directly affected my inability to like Tom Hooper’s film, which seemed, in its marketing campaign and the actual viewing of it, like it wanted to position itself as a bold remake of a beloved story targeted at its fans. To me, the uninitiated, I could not buy in.
Listening to music is an emotional experience above all, and the musical genre succeeds best when it is able to tap into this emotive potential and elevate the action of a story. Hooper’s Les Mis attempts to tap into this aspect of the genre by paying particular care to the music, but rather than having the intended elevating effect, it instead distracted. The film tries to ride a line between musical and realist drama which shouldn’t, maybe even can’t, be riden; musicals demand a suspension of disbelief, mostly because people don’t actually burst into spontaneous moments of choreographed song and dance when expressing their feelings in real life. Hooper’s attempt to inject a bold, in-your-face grittiness to his production is, therefore, ultimately ill conceived.
Hugh Jackman, as the most competent member of the cast, managed to keep me with the program with his performance as Jean Valjean. Similarly, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, kept me entertained as the comic relief. The rest of the cast had too little screen time to impress me, or enough to bore me.
From a technical standpoint, the film had some great moments; the grand visuals and set pieces were truly awesome, and Hooper deserves a lot of credit for his ambitious vision alone. Ambition without execution, though, left me feeling nothing about the film. Given the hype, that only left me disappointed.
Mr. Struggan sends his Low Regards.