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VISUALLY STUNNING, VOCALLY A LITTLE LESS SO
on 18 May 2013
The story itself could hardly fail to grip. Embittered by twenty years' hard labour for stealing bread, parole-breaker Jean Valjean is transformed by a bishop's kindness, resolving from now on to make something of his life. Instead for decades officer Javert pursues, he blinkered by duty and regarding Valjean as unfinished business. The two are on collision course. Meanwhile France is in turmoil, another revolution seemingly on its way....
Visually the film is stunning. The plot is so strong, it disappoints (at least for a while) that the singing of the two leads is not more powerful. Anne Hathaway heartrendingly makes impact with "I Dreamed a Dream" - a raw outpouring of anguish from one now without hope. "Master of the House" proves perhaps more muted than usual - accompanying "business", although amusing, rather a distraction. "Do You Hear the People Sing?" appropriately stirs. Much in the film's later stages proves genuinely moving.
Viewers' reactions may well be determined by the route so far taken. Mine is via the original London cast album and the two lavish anniversary celebratory concert versions (the 10th one preferred because of its power, involvement and truly awesome, memorable climax). Hopes would understandably thus be high for film performances that at least matched or even surpassed those previously experienced.
Despite initial disappointments, the film offers much to applaud. In many ways it does justice to a musical so successful all over the world. The plight of the oppressed is always one that strikes a chord, stirring emotions. On stage and screen "Les Miserables" is more to experience than simply to watch - audiences often reduced to tears, emerging uplifted.
Here again many will fall under its spell.