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Les Miserables

A guaranteed musical tear-jerker about a jerk who becomes a teary hero.
By Tom Glasson
January 08, 2013
By Tom Glasson
January 08, 2013

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs that aren't quite clear.
It is the music of the musical we love and hence our fear.
For while Hooper's craft is strong,
And The King's Speech touched us all,
There is a humph bl'furston — wait...what did Hugh just saaaaay?

Such is the astounding opening sequence of Tom Hooper's eagerly anticipated Les Miserables. Not the song, of course (that one comes later), but there is music and it is muffled. That's because the opening shot, like most of the film, is an exercise in sensory overload: a raging sea, a heaving ship in ruins, and hundreds of bedraggled convicts hauling it into dry dock whilst belting out 'Look Down'. All the songs were recorded live on set to give the film a greater sense of realism, and while Hooper succeeded on that front, it regrettably comes at the expense of clarity, with lyrics often drowned out by extraneous events.

Still, this is one of musical theatre's most famous stories, and, thankfully, it's beautiful, rousing melodies can only be subdued so far. Anne Hathaway leads the charge with her exquisite, tearful rendition of 'I dreamed a dream' and it takes just seconds to entirely forget SuBo ever happened. This sublime single shot on the transformed Hathaway ensnares unreservedly and sets an almost impossible benchmark for her co-stars to achieve. Coming closest behind, though, are Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Samantha Barks as Eponine. Both lend their characters vital stage experience, whilst others like Russell Crowe, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Helena Bonham Carter struggle for their lack of it. Eddie Redmayne is the surprise standout, delivering a moving rendition of 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables', while Amanda Seyfried absolutely fits the bill as Cosette.

Les Miserables is one for the whole family, so long as the family is prepared to discuss prostitution, murder and revolutionary war. It sounds a little tough, but not nearly as tough as trying not to sing along and aloud to all those memorable tunes.

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