Having seen the musical version of “Les Miserables” four times on stage, twice when the 25th anniversary concert was presented on television and now on the movie screen there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each medium. The PBS anniversary brought the original 1985 and the current cast together in an encore that would be prohibitive for regular performances on stage and unthinkable on film. In the theatre version you have a cast filling the stage with song and your eyes are darting all over as the action is conceived between wide and high set walls.
The story is the same in all 3 mediums the movie version proves to be the most moving as the maligned by critics close-ups are numerable but brings the audience into the story and into the characters.
Russell Crowe is getting a bad rap, undeservedly, for his singing and brings the needed gravitas to his role as Javert and the moral problem he finds himself facing. Both Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, deliver the goods in both singing and acting departments. Samantha Barks, as Eponine, and Eddie Redmayne, as Marius, present breakout roles in their careers. Sacha Baron Cohen, as Thenardier, and Helena Bonham Carter, as Madame Thenardier, are usually too much for too long in their screen roles but here they are reigned in as far as screen time goes and offer comic relief. Amanda Seyfried, as Cosette, pales against the rest of the cast.
The screenplay by William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Herbert Kretzmer based on the original stage musical by Boublil and Schoenberg which in turn was based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel hits all the necessary plot points while Tom Hooper, the director, brings you into the story with those close-ups and some dizzying editing. There are a couple of scenes that take you out of the story by being obviously done on a set and looking very fragile.
Another difference between the mediums is that intermission in the stage version gives you the much needed stretch while in the film there isn’t any break and with the film a little over 2 hours and 30 minutes you could use one. In spite of the length the movie goes by at a fairly fast pace and you can almost hear when the audience recognizes one of the many known songs. The auditorium was full and stayed that way with applause at the end.
I will be seeing the touring company when it opens in Miami February 26 and I have a strong feeling I will be seeing the movie again before that date!