Sometimes it is hard to review or critique a musical depending on how it is made. Not a lot of people can truly understand musicals when a good majority of the film is made up of song. Especially when the films runtime is sneaking up on three hours in length. That being said, if one can appreciate the devotion put into each and every scene, you will come to realize that "Les Misérables" is one of the best movies to be released to theaters in 2012.
The story revolves around the French revolution and it centers around a convict that breaks bail named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). He breaks bail when he realizes he will never be accepted into society, and that he will never gain a career. Changing his name, he becomes the mayor of Paris, France years later. When he meets a factory worker named Fantine (Anne Hathaway), he feels responsible when she is tossed out into the streets and forced to become a prostitute. He devotes himself to find her poorly treated daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfriend), and raise her as his own all the while escaping from Javert (Russell Crowe), a police officer who devotes himself to finding Valjean and putting him back to slavery. All the while, the French revolution is going on, which is a monumental aspect to the story.
Let it be known that 99% of the film is singing, it almost never stops for a conversation, there is some regular speech here and there, but for the most part, it's singing, and when there is a conversation, even that has a melody, albeit, a very monotonic melody. That being said, if you appreciate this kind of musical, it really won't matter to you, but some really don't understand, nor can withstand almost three hours of nonstop singing. Just try to remember that performances are out of this world.
Anne Hathaway's somewhat short, but pivotal role in the film should not be seen as anything less than Oscar-worthy. In one specific scene, the camera angle shoots one continuous shot of her singing her heart out. Her emotions in this single scene range from sadness to anger back to sadness again. The tears are there, and are very real. This is Hathaway's best performance she has ever done. A lot of these musical numbers are done in the same fashion, very little, if at all edited scenes for the main solo performances. Each one is absolutely phenomenal and memorable. From Hugh Jackman, to Russell Crowe, to Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, all the way to even Sacha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. You will be shocked to see the professionalism in these actors faces as they pour their heart out in every scene.
We once had a "Les Misérables" film starring Liam Neeson as the title role that was not a musical, but just story. That film on it's own follows the same story very closely, and is also very well done. I whole-heartedly believe that the music in this film, at least for the main performances, that it is absolutely necessary for the story to contain these songs. There is something special when a movie can tell a story solely through song. Not many musicals can pull this off, and if nothing else, this movie did a remarkable job at doing it.
It's not only the singing that was fantastic, but the idea that none of the songs were recorded post-filming. Every one was done on set live. Just the idea that they had to sing these songs the way that they did with all of the emotions involved is mind-blowing. This is a movie for the history books. Even if you don't like musicals, you should be able to appreciate what it was going for. It really is a great film.
"Les Misérables" came to theaters Christmas day, so if you haven't checked out this masterpiece, I highly suggest you do whenever you have some free time on your hands.