Home Movies First Review: “Les Miserables” Comes to Movies with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe,...

Cheers and a standing ovation this afternoon at the first screening of the film version of “Les Miserables.” Tom Hooper, Oscar winner for The King’s Speech, has made a thrilling, sensational epic of the legendary Broadway show. This now becomes the “Titanic” of this year’s awards season, the epic film to beat. Hugh Jackman is a triumph as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway sings the heck out of the film’s big numbers, and Samantha Barks just about steals the film. Russell Crowe makes for a solid Javert. And the many supporting players, especially Aaron Tveit, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried, are top notch.

Universal Pictures with help from Peggy Siegal put on two blockbuster screenings this afternoon and this evening at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Anne Hathaway, husband Adam Schulman, and Anne’s parents Gerry and Kate sat right in front of me. It was the second time this week that Anne, who plays Fantine, sat down and watched the film all the way through. Hooper gives her the first of his many signature closeups as she sings “I Dreamed a Dream” and brings down the house. As Fantine, Hathaway breathes life into the tortured waif whose saga spurs Jean Valjean through the post-French Revolution years and student uprisings of he 1830s. She will be a Best Supporting Actress nominee. And with any luck she’ll sing on the Oscars.

Jackman and co-star Crowe were not present tonight, but Hathaway, Redmayne, Barks and director Hooper sat for a Q&A with Columbia film professor Annette Insdorf. We learned that there was no lipsynching–everything was sung live, and you can feel it. Barks and Tveit, however, are the Voices with a capital V in this film. There is no denying their accomplishment in this inordinately well cast film.

The other pair who stand out are Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, straight out of Tim Burton’s film of “Sweeney Todd.” (“Les Miz” diehards won’t like this, but much of this show is influenced, ahem, by “Sweeney Todd” and Stephen Sondheim.) HBC and SBC are absolutely hilarious and wily together. They also get to sing “Master of the House,” the comic number with loads of nods to “More Hot Pies” from the other musical. As Cossette’s guardians, and parents of Eponine (Barks), they are indelible fun.

And then there’s Hugh Jackman. He’ll be nominated for Best Actor and will likely win. The movie hangs on him, and he carries it from beginning to end. It’s his best work ever, the pinnacle for him as he combines his musical and dramatic talents. Hooper said in the Q&A he wouldn’t have made the movie if Jackman didn’t exist, and he’s right. This is the role of a lifetime, like Robert Goulet in “Camelot.” Wolverine may have to break out in song in his next film.

Tom Hooper steered this ship, and it’s a massive cruise liner. The thing Hooper does so well is bring history to life–whether it’s John Adams or Queen Elizabeth I or the stuttering King George. In the “John Adams” miniseries, there’s a great breakfast scene in which John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin all get together in Paris. It’s as if we’re eavesdropping on these famous but inaccessible people. In “Les Miz,” Hooper pulls off just this trick. The canvas is broad but the characters are intimate and so well drawn that you feel you know them, and their French revolt, by the time the end comes.

I went to the 25th anniversday show of “Les Miz” at the O2 Arena in London a couple of years ago. People from around the world are devoted to this show. These armies of “Les Miz” fans will not be disappointed by this film. Something tells me they will see it three and four times.



140 replies to this post
  1. Looks boring. That being said it will probably sweep the Oscars. Unless some blockbuster Anti Bush, Anti Christian, Anti Red State Anti Troop Pro Gay Pro Illegal alien movie comes out. Then that one will take it all.

  2. Not judging, just noting – this ‘review’ is so very different than, say, the review of Palin’s exposing the corrupt underbelly of power-monger politics and bought media. Again, just calling into remembrance.

  3. Victor Hugo ‘ s novel is a masterpiece. The French musical made a farce of it.
    I wonder what this 57th version of it will look like… Isn’t there anyone capable of writing original scenarii anymore… .? The three musketeers, the iron mask have been made and remade beyond comprehension as well.. Why ?

  4. Steve K, you are ignorant to make comparisons to past productions. The two you mention are not musicals. They follow the novel. This IS the broadway production come to the screen and all of the music was filmed within the scenes!! It’s a breakthrough not only in method but also that they were able to draw together this much musical talent in Hollywood and bring a real “stage presence” to acting again.

    Mind blown.

  5. I am very heartened by this review. After seeing Alfie Bowe own the role of Valjean in London, I was nervous of the casting of Jackman. But Hugh is first and foremost a song n’ dance man, so glad to hear he’s lived up to people’s expectations. I fear people will be telling me to shut up while I’m humming Bring Him Home or Master of the House!

  6. I have been waiting for this movie for so many years. When I heard it was finally going to be made I didn’t have any actors in mind for the roles. Except one. I knew Hugh Jackman HAD to play Jean Valjean. There is no other musical actor today who could possibly do justice to the role. After reading Tom Hooper’s comment I knew I was right.
    I will see this many more times than one, I can say that. ‘Les Miz’ gets in your soul and changes you.
    If you’ve never seen it before I have 2 words of advice: take tissues.
    What a wonderful Christmas gift!! I can’t WAIT to be there.

  7. It seems to me that being a filmmaker offers so uncertainty; how people commit themselves in good faith and face the possibility of ridicule. Of course, when it works, you get reviews like this, and the satisfaction of having your name on something that will outlive you. I was given a ticket and saw the Broadway play 20 years ago. I hummed tunes from it for the next 10 days. The cast are all extraordinary. In short, I have all the encouragement I need to see this!

  8. Nancy….Jackman was NOT in Iron Man.
    Those who condemn before they see it….you are losers.
    We need this film and Lincoln at this time.
    Kids 8 and over should have a good time since there are kids in it.
    This will be Cameron Mackintosh’s legacy.
    When I first heard of the cast….I was excited.
    If Hooper has kept his directing crisp and sharp as in other films of his…
    Goodbye, contenders of the prizes.
    Titanic should sink.

  9. It’s the greatest thing ever filmed. It’s wonderful. Hugh Jackman is a triumph. Anne Hathaway is fantastic – whoa – she can sing! Russell Crowe is magnificent! The Sound of Music in historical France. It’s going to be the one to beat at the Oscars (don’t tell the actors who are part of “Lincoln”, please). BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH……

    Do these things TRULY matter to anyone who is not a multi-millionaire like these actors in Les Miserables? No. They don’t.

  10. It’s a sad movie but a good one. I remember years ago I listened to it dramatized on audio tape. I was pulled into it and man the injustice of the times. Jean ValJean proves to be more just than the justice system of its day.

  11. I’ve been disappointed so many times by musicals made into movies that cast celebrities instead of singers and ruined the show, a la Camelot and Man of La Mancha that I almost dread seeing this. I hear Crowe sings in a band, but can he possibly cope with ‘Stars’? This score is as close to opera as Broadway gets and if the voices aren’t up to it, the experience will be cringe-inducing. I look forward to seeing it, but with some trepidation.

  12. I Cant wait!! heck, I’m almost weeping reading the review..this musical.. and hopefully this film.. stirs my soul..soo deeply!
    Thank you for the review!

  13. I am 24 years old. I have watched the original movie in black and white, and I loved it. This movie looks to be spectacular. Those of you trolls here smashing this need to grow up.

  14. This movie doesn’t stand a chance because, after all, no one is of color therefore it’s “racist” and this is not the way award winning movies are now going via darling Hollywood. There is one bright light as it were in the movie and that is the unparalleled talent, that beyond genius of an actor, an actor’s actor, the greatest actor of all time into perpetuity, none other than Israelite Sacha Baron Cohen. No doubt this brilliant phenom, this shining star upon the thespian firmament – make that galaxy – should automatically be given THE Academy Award just on sheer measure of his presence……………….

  15. Yes, Anne Hathaway can sing… if you want an example, YouTube Anne Hathaway Mary Poppins! It’s hilarious (on SNL), but she can sing quite well. For those pooh-poohers, go see it before you criticize. The musical is awesome, and if this cast can sing as well as act, this movie rendition is likely to move audiences across the world! I will be one of those attempting to get an opening night ticket.

  16. Saw Le Miz 5 times in 5 different cities – wept
    Saw the Liam Neeson movie – wept
    Saw the brief film on the making of Le Miz recently – wept buckets
    Watch the 25th anniversary show from London over and over – weep each time
    Don’t know what’s going to happen when I see the movie, but I’ll be armed with kleenex.
    Although I basically agree with donnieboy: (bad revolution that spawned those that resemble potus. bad bad bad), the music and lyrics are glorious and the story of love and redemption universal.
    And Hugh Jackman as JVJ – be still my AARP heart!!

  17. Ah Yes…ode to Social Justice… 4 years of entrenching a populace by gifts, 4 more to lay waste to any resemblance of The Dream. Yes now we shall champion the French revolution where the collective, the sovereignty of the people, the general will stood above individual rights. Forward w/ the conditioning of culture by media to make these next years more palatable.
    Yes hold it on high and let us reveling in the spectacle that would have our forefathers rolling in their graves as we are all socialists now….

  18. I think this movie was remade to show everyone what America will be like in another four years.

    I guess it was a great novel in the 19th century by a French writer. Another great thing the French gave us in the 19th century was the tasseled combat boot. Gotta love those French folks.

  19. One of the most beloved musicals of all-times! I’ve seen “Les Miserables” live (Off Broadway productions) twice to sell out crowds and would go again and again. It is a wonderful story with ‘infectious’ music….”Master of the House” is one of my favorites. (The 1998 movie version starring Liam Neeson wasn’t too shabby either). Good to see that the American public still possesses good taste.

  20. Samantha Banks is a favourite of mine and was wonderful in the stage presentation of Les Mis.
    Now really eager to see the movie which sounds as if it will be a winner. Well done cast, and crew!

  21. Many of the young revolutionary students seen in the film were played by members of the London cast of the stage show, and cast members of the 25th Anniversary concert performance, which also include Samantha Barks. Fantastic of Hooper to make use of performers already familiar with the music.

    Steve K, the versions you refer to were all straight dramatic adaptations. This is a MUSICAL version — the only musical adaptation of the story.

    Russ in NC, Anne Hathaway can indeed sing. She played the role of Lili in a City Centers Encores production of CARNIVAL in 2002.

    While I was disappointed that they did not cast the amazing Alfie Boe as Valjean (he played the role in the 25th Anniversary concert and in the West End, and did audition for the role), I look forward to seeing Hugh Jackman’s take on the role.

  22. Other than Hugh Jackman and Tveit- the A-list types simply cant sing- at least not at broadway caliber. Javert is one of the great Broadway Musical roles and it’s about to be ruined by an actor who can’t sing. I’m shocked the creators of these truly great works allow the final “historical” record of their shows to be voiced by second rate singers. I was horrified to see the previews for Les Mis in which they bragged that the actors were allowed to change the pacing of the music and lyrics as they tried out “acting choices.” A broadway musical performed 100,000 times around the world for millions of people doesn’t need to be re-interpreted for the film version, it needs to be performed perfectly by the greatest voices ever to play the roles. How many more musicals- from a fun pop show like Mamma Mia to a great work like Sweeney Todd will be ruined with big names who can’t sing but out of vanity insist on performing a track that would be booed off the stage at a local high school performance? UGH

  23. The musical that celebrates the revolution that brought us the Reign of Terror and Robespierre and the Committee for Public Safety…read your history and grow up,

  24. I lived in NYC for quite a while, had never bothered to see a play.
    Then a friend came to visit – and I agreed to sit through “Les Miz”.
    Following that absolutely amazing experience, I cancelled my cable, stopped watching TV or movies for about ten years. Seriously.
    I just thought – well it will never get better than that. I still have my playbook.
    So, relative to a live performance of the play, how would you rate the film?

  25. p.s. You will probably need to look up the term “Elizabethan” as well.

    Face it: if you’re under forty, you are culturally, historically and functionally illiterate.

    And THAT’s why you know nothing and voted for Baraqa!!

  26. Roger, thank you for setting things straight. Carlb, I am a afraid it would be a waste on you, but you could take your mom (a member of the AARP set?) to see the longest running stage musical ever (in its 28th year) on which this movie is based and count all the under 30’s attending with dates who aren’t their moms. ZacJ, Russel Crow has been singing in a band for years, most recently in “Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God.” Kathy White and Norton, if you can get past “Lovely Ladies” (look up the lyrics) and the wild card of Sacha Baron Cohen singing “Master of the House,” you should be okay with 12 years and up. Might have some explaining to do, but if they watch TV, then that should be minimal. The movie is certainly worth a try, even if I am a die-hard fan of a certain British tenor, and, Sara, I won’t close the door on “The Hobbit,” yet.

  27. I was at the first showing Friday, as a member of SAG, and it was indeed brilliant, particularly the shattering performances of Hugh Jackman and AnneHathaway. My own vision of the film was fully realized, and I thank Mr. Hooper for choosing to share it with us early

  28. I cannot wait to see this movie because I love nearly everything Huge Jackman has ever appeared in (except for Swordfish). He can do it all sing, dance and act and seems from the interviews I’ve seen a real down to earth nice guy.

    Roger did you know Russell Crowe once recorded a song called “I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando” under the name Russ Le Roq?

  29. Roger Friedman, thanks for this review. I am looking forward to the movie. Small quibble: Les Miz is not about the French Revolution, which began in 1789. The barricades of Les Miz depict an uprising in 1832, long after the French Revolution.

  30. I’m eagerly looking forward to what sounds like a very well-cast movie; the stage production is my favorite musical. Just a note… the story does not start until about 1815, well after the French Revolution. The student rebellion featured took place in 1832.

  31. Les Miserables is NOT about the French Revolution! It seems like nearly everyone gets this wrong. Even Roger Friedman makes this mistake in the review. It was about the June Rebellion, a student uprising that took place in 1832 — 40 years after the French Revolution.

  32. the previous versions of this film were not musicals. the liam nesson version was not. i saw a brief documentary on youtube about the making of this film. all performers actually sang the songs. even anne hathaway. that is NOT dubbed. they wore small earpieces that the camera could not see so that they could hear the pianist off in a studio while they sang. the orchestra was later added and synced to the singing. this has never been done before for a motion picture musical and apparently, the risk has paid off in spades! russell crowe can sing (he’s performed in rock bands for years).

  33. Isn’t Les Miserables that totally gay thing that was on Broadway for almost forever? Some of those guys from Texas and the South who like to wear big hats all the time and have their women compliantly follow in their shadows everywhere tend to pronounce it The Miserables, like the word “miserables” is an English word or people from a family named Miserable, because many of them don’t understand that there are other languages in the world. I hope it’s good anyway, even it is some big gay thing, because then at least gay people will like it and it will be successful, even if not the guys with the big hats who walk through before their wives and stuff.

  34. I love Les Mez, and think Hugh Jackman is a fine actor, but truly believe Alfie Boe should have been given the Jean Valjean role. He proved himself as JVJ with the O2 Anniversary performance and has the voice that makes an audience feel what JVJ is feeling when he sings, especially Bring Him Home. No one can sing that song with the feeling Alfie Boe projects with that song.

  35. I’m disappointed we aren’t hearing anything about the “Barricade Boys” – the young men who fight in the 1832 June Rebellion that takes up the latter part of the movie. Aside from Aaron Tviet I haven’t heard a thing about them. I guess they didn’t make an impression?

  36. I saw Samantha Barks sing “On My Own” on the PBS special for the 25th anniversary and was stoked when they chose her instead of the other actresses whose names were being floated around. She’ll be amazing.

  37. Have seen the stage productions of Les Miz 4 or 5 times, have the music CD to listen while driving, have the 25th Anniversary on DVD, saw the musical production in London. Love it! Can’t wait to see the movie which looks like the first movie/musical production combined.

  38. Actually it was mostly for the Screen Actors Guild and other voters for the Motion Picture Academy–a few hundred people who are in different guilds, are hard working below the line people who are not celebrities and have no connection to the movie. People brought parents and children. It was a lovely experience.

  39. All the songs are live takes instead of lip synching to the studio recording. I think that adds an extra element to movie adaptation of a musical.

  40. As soon as we can we are getting our tickets for opening day, Christmas. Having seen the play 4 times it is our absolute, most favorite “musical”. I’ll start crying at the opening credits.

  41. As a member of the “over the hill gang” I have been an admirer of Mr. Jackman. I believed his talent was wasted in those “Iron Man” films.
    It sounds as though this film will give him his due.
    As a person I have admired his devotion to his wife and children. A trait not always found in men in the entertainment industry.
    Go Hugh!!

  42. I am pleased that they actually used actors who have experience singing. Les Miserables is not the show where you bring in big name stars and hope that makes up for the fact that they can’t sing well. Other than Russell Crowe, I’ve heard all of the other main characters sing and they are quite good for Hollywood actors. I may have missed it if Crowe has also sung but I have a feeling he did fine. I can’t wait to see it. The audience should just make sure to take their prozac.

  43. Really looking forward to this! Liam Neeson’s version was very good, but this is really what most people want (and Hugh Jackman always delivers). This should be VERY good.

  44. Its not the first version ever done, you know. Frederic March and Charles Laughton did one, Liam Nesson and Geoffrey Rush did a more recent one. Oh and by the way it was a play on Broadway. If this is a new good one, great,but don’t act like its an amazing new accomplishment. There is probably another one or two versions I dont know or haven’t seen as well

  45. the people who go to premiers of course would just have a orgasim over it. but to most of the public who pay to see movies (young kids) this movie is a snoozer. great date though for the aarp crowd.

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