As a massive fan of the musical, the much-hyped film adaptation of Les Mis had a lot to live up to, so it was with slight trepidation that I went to see it. But I needn’t have worried; Tom Hooper’s version captured the spirit of the show while adding a visual scale impossible to capture on stage. The only scene that I felt didn’t live up to this was the barricade scene, with the revolutionaries’ paltry construction looking a bit pathetic on screen.
When I heard that Anne Hathaway had been cast as Fantine I was a bit dissapointed; I’m not a massive fan since she single-handedly ruined One Day for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. She may not have been able to master the Yorkshire accent but she can certainly sing, and she pitched her performance perfectly for the extreme close up.
In general the casting is spot on, with Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen giving notably understated, yet still grotesque, performances that bring some comic relief amidst the gloom. They are indicative of the altered tone of the movie – more nuanced and less ‘theatrical’ than the stage musical. The big name performances all deliver, particularly Hugh Jackman and Eddie Redmayne, but the entire cast is strong: Samantha Barks (Éponine), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) and Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche) all give excellent performances.
Some of the voices aren’t the strongest – I think I’ll still be listening to the original cast recording – but full-out musical-style belting might have felt out of place, and the live singing brings life and feeling to the lyrics that would have been lacking had the songs been dubbed.
The film couldn’t achieve the connection with the audience that appears uniquely with live performance; it felt wrong for One Day More to end in silence, rather than to rapturous applause, and in some ways this reduced its emotional impact. Yet the film managed to retain the emotion and atmosphere, the essence of the stage production – while the screen removes you from the action, the ability to choose shots and use close ups means that every viewer has the best seat in the house and ensures that the emotional connection with the characters and their stories isn’t lost.