is a descriptor for the characters in the Broadway musical-turned-film. The story intricately intertwines the lives of the desperate and passionate, leaving a trail of death, heartbreak and love. But the title also sums up the viewer's experience to an extent because even though it's a beautiful tale told through brilliant performances, it's also trying to watch the poor cinematography and editing.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) was jailed for 19 years for stealing to feed his starving family. Having served his time, his conviction hangs over his head wherever he attempts to start over. Determined to become a new man, he changes his name and becomes an established businessman. In the meantime, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) loses her job and is forced to sell her body to support a sick child. A chance encounter leaves Fantine's daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), in Jean Valjean’s custody. Culminating during the French Revolution, a young man (Eddie Redmayne) changes their lives forever.
The story has enjoyed endless success on stage and it transfers well to the screen. The locations are still limited, but are expanded by vast landscape shots. However, the closeness of the camera to the actors' faces in the majority of scenes is irritating and restrictive. It detracts from much of the emotional intensity in several key moments, especially those involving more than one person since the other participant is outside the frame. This is an unfortunate technicality that mars an otherwise good picture.
On the other hand, the performances are outstanding. Most of the dialogue is sung rather than spoken, so singing abilities were key to casting. All of the actors are known to have musical backgrounds so it’s not surprising this is one of the film’s strong points. Jackman masks his Aussie accent with a plausible French one while conveying a variety of emotions – from anger to joy to empathy – through song. Hathaway’s exceptional delivery of Fantine’s pain and sadness is heartbreaking. Redmayne brings his award-winning stage talents to the adaptation, instilling his character with great musical expression. Russell Crowe is the only questionable choice, but he finds his groove in the film eventually.
Much-needed comic relief is expertly delivered by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen throughout the picture as a pair of hustling beggars always scheming to make (or steal) a buck.
In the end this is still a great film that remains highly recommendable, except for a very noticeable flaw.
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Hugh Jackman
, Russell Crowe
and Anne Hathaway