Movie for French & History Majors and Theater Fans: Les Miserables
By Lily Yengle '13
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 01:02
If you’re hankering for a good three-hour cry, this epic-turned-musical is definitely a good way to get the tears flowing. The Christmas day blockbuster features a huge cast of characters whom the movie follows over several decades. The historical context of the story – it takes place after the French Revolution – adds a sense of gravity and realism to the rebellious spirit in the film.
The plot is not particularly surprising – how can a story that has been in print since 1863 and preformed regularly since 1980 expect to shock its audience? – and so it relies on other aspects of the performance to keep the viewers engaged. Namely sword fights, romance, and lots of singing and dancing. Nearly all of the dialogue is sung, which is both absorbing and exhausting. Some of the songs, like the comedic number performed by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, were predictably entertaining. Many of the ballads, however, like Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream,” or Samantha Barks’ “On My Own,” were filmed in close-up frames that captured the actors’ intensity and emotion – not to mention the tears.
This strength of performance is not going unnoticed – both Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman are nominated for Oscars this year. So is director Tom Hooper, who has been praised for his decision to film all of the singing live, which he says makes the singing feel more “raw and real.” I could definitely appreciate the raw emotion, though some of the less vocally gifted actors (ahem, Russell Crowe) may have benefited from dubbing technology. On the whole, though, the songs and actors were disarming enough to engage the audience for the entire three hours.