Movie magic for all comers

SUPERB: Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway who star in <I>Les Miserables</I> deserve all the accolades that are coming their way.
SUPERB: Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway who star in <I>Les Miserables</I> deserve all the accolades that are coming their way.

Les Miserables
M, 2hr 50min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

Miserables by name but magnifique by film is this lengthy epic that is absolutely not to be missed.

Rare is it that Manawatu filmgoers applaud at the end of a film, but it has been happening with Les Miserables.

At our jam-packed screening, most stayed on as the credits rolled to ingest even more of the captivating music.

My misgivings about converting a stage musical to the screen were well and truly laid to rest. Director Tom Hooper knows his business, having hit the jackpot with The King's Speech three years ago.

For me the film was better than the stage version, even if patrons at both had their handkerchiefs fluttering as the tears flowed. You couldn't fall into a sloppy sewer on stage, nor lop off a cat's tail.

For the record, Les Miserables is set in 19th century revolutionary France, where the common folk try to rise against the ruling class. A criminal, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), breaks parole to care for Cosette, (Amanda Seyfried) daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and goes on the run.

Aussie Jackman in the lead role has erased the scars from the abominable 2008 movie, Australia. He totally deserves his first Academy Award best-actor nomination.

We can now appreciate Jackman can not only act, but was well cast as the singing Valjean; hitting the high notes of someone who has performed in musicals on Broadway and imparting the new song, Suddenly.

He is unrecognisable as a gaunt, bearded slave (after starving himself for three days) in the great opening scenes, where hundreds haul a ship into a drydock. That's where he first encounters his tormentor Javert, the horrible police inspector played by that rooster from Sydney, Russell Crowe.

When not acting Crowe has sung in his own band. But he is usurped by Jackman on the film's singing front and by English actor Eddie Redmayne (as young rebel Marius) and cheeky child actor Daniel Huttlestone playing a street urchin. Crowe though gets through on low notes and box-office pulling power.

There is a memorable sword-fight scene between Javert and Valjean, with both in full voice.

But the singing of the French masses with the great surround sound in Cinema 2 had me going all shivery.

As did Hathaway, who has received countless best supporting actress nominations, even if her time on screen is briefer than expected. Oh, and silly Sacha Baron Cohen and a scrubbed down Helena Bonham Carter are devious innkeepers.

It might have been slightly too long. But for that, and Crowe's monotone crowing, it might have been a six-star movie.

Manawatu Standard