It has taken a long time, but Broadway sensation, Les Miserables, finally makes it to the silver screen with this cinematic adaptation, courtesy of director Tom Hooper. This musical set during the French Revolution, follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), from prison to finding religion while trying to evade French officer, Javert, who is after Valjean for skipping his parole board.
The strength of the film is in the performances of Hugh Jackman as Valjean and Anne Hathaway as prostitute, Fantine, who is shown kindness by Valjean on her deathbed, as she names him her daughter's guardian. There is an emotional authenticity to their performances, largely because the actors are freed and are able to act in the moment thanks to director Tom Hooper choosing to film all of the music live when they shot, rather than per-recording the tracks in the studio.
While Les Mis does hit all of the emotional beats, sending shivers down your spine during the beautiful songs, the plot feels fairly disjointed and is resoundingly flat when they're not singing one of the showstoppers. For instance, only when the characters Marius and Cosette are singing a duet do I feel emotion, but between memorable songs, the plot takes over and is full of gaping plot holes. Am I supposed to believe these two who have only met once when they are singing about how they can no longer go on without the other? Not to mention, the film's editing is often chaotic, causing confusion as to the spatial relationship in scenes with multiple characters, and the shot design never fully takes advantage of the grandeur of the tale, save for that beautiful opening shot.
To put it mildly, Les Miserables is an emotionally potent disappointment, that only has moments that never connect into a cohesive whole worthy of the beauty of the songs.
I give Les Miserables a D+