After all of the hype surrounding this film I finally sat downto watch to see what all the commotion was about. I was weary at first with watching a film called “The Miserable” knowing it would defiantly be depressing.
From Guys and Dolls to Footloose, Billy Elliot, and more recently Hairspray and Mama Mia, it is always interesting to see crossover from books to film and sometimes even more so from theatre to film (and the other way around with theater and film). The story mainly follows the life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and through his interactions with the other characters we learn more about his life, the lives of the other characters and the hard times in 19c France. I did enjoy how each of the different stories intertwined and all the characters were connected; a six-degrees of separation kind of story if you will.
Though I have never seen this as a play before (but I have seen plays), I think that the way this was filmed added a new element of viewer engagement that a play could not have done. For me, what worked well about this, as a film was the use of camera angles and how the viewer could better see symbolisms.
For instance, when the camera follows Valjean’s torn up parole paper in the wind we get a birds eye view of France, setting the overall stage—the master shot. Though it seemed that some people did not enjoy the singing-en-scene, to the camera, I thought that made it more organic and felt more like a play. Also I liked that it added the element of making the viewer feel like a character in the film, thus engaging them more in the story.
Similarly, by having the camera move around and act like it is hiding in the bushes or moving about the house (when Carter and Cohen are singing “Master of the House”) we feel like we are there in the scene following the action as it unfolds and not just watching it in the audience.
Also, by bringing this story to film we are better able to see symbolic elements that perhaps we could not get from a play. Many times we see Javert walking on the edge of buildings, and it may seem strange at first glance, but the film allows us to see his struggle, he is constantly walking a thin line. Likewise, the use of the pan-up shot shows his power and authority, while the pan-down shows is insignificance in the grand scheme of things.
I really enjoyed the cast, and thought that all of the actors were well fitting, even Mr. Russell Crowe—I found him to be better than the suggested negative reviews out there. I was also impressed at the emotion that came through while singing; I really felt the sorrow of Anne Hathaway as she sang “I Dreamed a Dream,” and when Hugh Jackman sang as he faced multiple hard decisions, and when Eddie Redmayne was singing after the barricade fight scene and when Samantha Barks (Éponine) sang about her unrequited love. However, after all of the buzz around Hathaway, I was a little bummed at how little we see of her in this film.
Also, I really enjoyed the comic relief of Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thénardier) and even Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier). Though I am not one for Cohen’s comedic style I found him to be the perfect fit for the role.
The only thing that I found to be un-enjoyable (other than the depressing tone) was the pacing; it was rather strange. It was like the story itself moved fast and slow simultaneously. Sometimes the scene would change rather quickly and it was like “wait a sec, what just happened how did we jump to this point in time” but other times it was like “ok move on, what is next?”
Though seeing this film once was probably enough for me, I did appreciate the uniqueness that Tom Hooper brought to the telling of this story.