Movie review: Les Miserables

By Columbus Alive
From the December 20, 2012 edition

Trying to review “Les Misérables” is a lot like trying to review a “Twilight” movie — only one of them is a likely Oscar contender.

I’m not the target audience for a film like this. I never quite connected to traditional musical theater — my favorite movie musical is probably “Hedwig & the Angry Inch.” I’m only trying to judge the movie as a movie.

That said, I realize this is one of the most beloved and successful musicals ever. That’s the audience. And I suspect they will generally eat this film version up. I found the whole experience to be sort of mis-er-a-bleh.

One thing I think all of us can agree on is Hugh Jackman. He’s been showing off tastes of his musical theater chops, but getting to see him in full showman mode as Jean Valjean is a blast (even for this cold-hearted critic).

Anne Hathaway lays it on thick in limited screen time as Fantine. It has recently come to my attention that a lot of people hate Hathaway for some reason (“It’s her face,” a friend quipped). She doesn’t hold back. I think she’ll generate both goosebumps and an Oscar nomination with this performance.

Russell Crowe, on the other hand, will probably take the brunt of the criticism. He seems uncomfortable — in stark contrast to Jackman, who seems more in his element than ever. Oh, and also he can’t sing.

This is kind of important because, as I learned over the course of three hours, this is what’s known as a sung-through musical. There’s no spoken dialogue followed by bursting into song. Fans obviously know and love this. If your girlfriend is dragging you along, consider yourself warned.

Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) creates some wild stagings, but the camerawork is frustrating and obnoxious. His penchant for tight, unsteady handheld shots gets old fast and stays that way. It’s one thing to stay tight on actors, but you never get much sense of scope.

Like the Twi-hards, fans will flock to this and think me a Grinch for hating. Yeah, well, humbug.