Tom Hooper (just 40 years old) is the British director who brought us these compelling/gorgeous miniseries: John Adams (2008), Elizabeth I (2005), and Daniel Deronda (2002). Though I haven’t seen it yet, he made a big mark with The King’s Speech (2010), which won 4 Oscars. He brings a very well-known, large-scale tale down to a (small) human level. No doubt, the star of Les Mis is American Anne Hathaway, who shed not only 15 lbs., but almost all of her long hair, for the role of Fantine. Oh, and Hathaway can sing, too! Wow… Viewers will want to see more, but she appears in the first third of the film only.
One person who defininitly should not sing is Australian Russell Crowe, I’m sorry to say. His songs are tolerable (unlike that of Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera), but he doesn’t have a strong voice, and is clearly not very comfortable with this element of the film. (I love Crowe-a fabulous actor-but the producers/studio should’ve looked for a more suitable voice. Everyone can’t do any job.) The film seemed to slow down when Javert came onscreen, aside from the swordfighting scene.
Hugh Jackman (another Australian; got his start in theater) stars as Jean Valjean, a man who transforms his life by taking Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, into his care. Jackman can sing (but you probably knew that already). In the many close-ups, you can see his emotional range. I was pleasantly surprised, and feel that he needs to challenge himself even more with his next film roles (no offence to X-Men fans).
The film gets a jolt of energy when we meet the money-grubbing Thenardiers (played by Brits Sascha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter) and young, idealistic men who call for revolution (led by Enjolras, American Aaron Tveit).
Then the love-at-first-sight thing happens between the teenage Cosette (American Amanda Seyfried) and idealistic Marius (Brit Eddie Redmayne). A few in the audience wanted to see more of Eponine (British newcomer Samantha Barks). Her voice was lovely! (She also worked in theater.)
I felt that Cosette and Marius had good chemistry together; their singing was pretty good, too. However, the film is too long; editing a bit wouldn’t have hurt. Why draw things out that most of the audience already knows about?
Long-time fans of Les Mis are in for a treat- Colm Wilkinson plays The Bishop, the man who gives Valjean the “gift of silver” to “become an honest man.” Wilkinson, an Irishman, played Valjean onstage for many years; his voice is amazing!