Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 8 – Les Misérables

Les Misérables is a film directed by Tom Hooper, with a screenplay by William Nicholson and Herbert Kretzmer.  The movie is based on the original musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, which itself was based on the Les Misérables novel (1862) by Victor Hugo.  The film tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-convict who French policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) hunts down for decades after Valjean breaks parole and flees.  Valjean becomes the mayor of a town in France, and after he meets a factory worker named Fantine (Anne Hathaway), he agrees to raise her daughter Cosette.  While trying to evade Javert’s pursuit for many years, Valjean and Cosette endure many challenging circumstances, ultimately leading to a third-act climax set against the backdrop of the June Rebellion of France.  Hooper’s unique interpretation of the infamous musical tells a gripping story of love and redemption.

To say the least, I was blown away by the riveting compassion of Hooper’s production from the very first scene.  One of my favorite films of all time is Hooper’s The King’s Speech, and much like the Best Picture winner from 2010, the cinematography is unbelievably stylistic and continually mimics the overall theme of the movie.  I am an avid fan of musicals, and this one is right up there with some of my most favorites.  The one element that this musical includes compared with others is the constant singing.  Yes, I understand it IS a musical, but in other ones like The Phantom of the Opera (2004) or Sweeney Todd (2007), spoken word is still utilized throughout—in Les Misérables, there are at most seven or eight spoken words, while the rest of the entire script is sung.

I was more than impressed with the acting in the film.  The actors and actresses are clearly amazing singers, as they probably would not have gotten the roles without this being true, but Hooper employs an exceptionally talented group of performers with top-notch acting skills.  The two performances that have garnered the most critical acclaim are from Jackman and Hathaway—and I most definitely feel they have more than earned the praise they are receiving.  Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career as the lead character Jean Valjean, and in each scene he is featured, he demands our attention and does so with the priceless proficiency of a veteran actor in Hollywood.  On the other hand, Hathaway features in only a short period of time during the film, but she makes the most of her chance on the screen.  Her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” was taped in a single close-up shot, and Hathaway blows all other musical numbers in the film out of the water in just a few minutes.

The supporting cast does not miss a beat in the movie, and some of the film’s best scenes feature these actors and actresses.  Some of these highlights come courtesy of seasoned veteran Russell Crowe as Javert, Amanda Seyfried as the older Cosette, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius.  In my opinion, the best of the supporting performances, however, are by Sacha Baron Cohen as Thénardier, Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thénardier, and the underrated Samantha Banks as the Thénardier’s daughter Éponine.  With the tremendous musical numbers, award-winning acting, and lucrative filmmaking, Les Misérables is definitely one of the best movies of 2012.  Les Misérables is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence, and thematic elements.

Academy Award nominations for Les Misérables:

Best Picture (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers)

Actor in a Leading Role (Hugh Jackman)

Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Hathaway)

Costume Design (Paco Delgado)

Makeup and Hairstyling (Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell)

Best Original Song (“Suddenly,” Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil)

Production Design (Eve Stewart and Anna Lynch-Robinson)

Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, and Simon Hayes)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Looper

11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

12. The Dark Knight Rises

13. Flight

14. The Master

15. Argo