10 Days of Oscars: Les Miserables
BY: CAT TOMPKINS
For those who couldn't watch "Les Miserables" as a musical in a theater, director Tom Hooper brought it to your screen in a fantastic adaptation. This musical film based off the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's tragic yet classic novel exceeded beyond my expectations in a heartbeat. Unlike other musical films where there is a regular film plot along with random moments of characters breaking out into song, "Les Miserables" is 2 hours and 37 minutes long of pure singing. As in, there is rarely a single line of dialogue that isn't part of a lyric. Because of the nature of this movie, it may be difficult for some to get used to at first, but as soon as the booming and epic opening song, "Look Down" reverberates, the audience is instantly drawn in as they are transported to France in the early 1800s.
The film takes place during a time of political unrest over a span of 17 years in France. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-convict on parole, is living a new life as the mayor of Montreuil-sur-mer, a small town in France. After his former identity is exposed to Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), he finds his dying and beautiful ex-factory worker, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), and promises to raise her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried).
Jackman portrayed Valjean's various stages of life wonderfully, giving insight and life to his character. Some other notable and captivating performances include the Thernardiers’ (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen) comedic rendition of “Master of the House,” and Anne Hathaway’s tear-jerking performance of one of "Les Miserables"' most famous tunes “I Dreamed A Dream.” It was also impressive that her performance was done in one single shot.
Newcomers Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks, who played the characters Marius, Enjolras and Éponine respectively, have proven themselves of Oscar-worthy performances and I praise them for portraying their characters very eloquently, especially Barks’ rendition of “On My Own.”
In addition to the beautiful performances brought by the actors, the details of the costumes and the set were very well-designed to portray France’s state of poverty during the film's respective time period which helped further shed light to the meaning of lyrics in some songs; in addition, the film’s methods of cinematography was very pristine.
Overall, the film was very beautifully-made and emotionally-investing, but it is a shame that Hooper decided to approach the film with a lot of close-up shots of the characters during their performances so it's hard to truly appreciate the set design and the costumes. However, with the close-ups, the film bring a personal feeling--as if they were singing and performing for you, an audience of one.
This film has been nominated for eight categories at the Academy Awards, some of which they will be sure to win. Because of Anne Hathaway’s memorable and captivating performance, she is definitely locked-in for the title of Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. Due to the unique nature as to how the musical was filmed, "Les Miserables" has a good chance of winning Sound Mixing and Best Production Design as well. As for the Best Picture award, "Les Miserables" will be facing off among the likes of “Argo” and “Lincoln,” who have been sweeping away the title of Best Picture at previous awards shows, and have proven to be top competitors during this awards season.