Les Misérables won’t go down as the worst movie of 2012, but it should go down as the biggest misfire.
What this screen version of Les Misérables needs but doesn’t have is the artifice of theater.
Any time we move on stage from Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) high drama to the lowbrow humor of innkeeper and thief, Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen), we’re given a pause as the sets adjust. On screen, we cut and it’s jolting: We were just crying! Now, we’re laughing? In three seconds?
A theater with an enormous set and live actors also makes the gaps in the story’s narrative cohesion easier to take.
Here, the holes—why, exactly, does Éponine (Samantha Barks) love Marius (Eddie Redmayne)? Or Marius love Cosette (Amanda Seyfried)? Why is there revolution?—are big and glaring.
Worse yet, this movie has no sense of place. What’s the point of building grand sets if 98 percent of the movie is actors in close-up?
As for the music and singing, the repeated themes that work well on stage become monotonous on celluloid.
Jackman is overwrought; Seyfried does her best Adriana Caselotti impersonation. Anne Hathaway is excellent, but gone fast.
See it on stage (again) instead.
Directed by Tom Hooper / With Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway / Opens Dec. 25 / PG-13 / 157 min.