Les Misérables: something is missing in this hard life

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables"

“Les Misérables”, the screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel turned stage musical, resonates with powerful performances and evocative storytelling. Yet, amid the emotional depth and stellar cast, there’s a conspicuous absence that subtly diminishes its impact: epicness.

Poster for Les Miserables

The intimacy of extreme closeups, while potent in capturing the raw emotion of pivotal solos like “What Have I Done?” and “I Dreamed A Dream,” falls short in portraying the grandeur demanded by the larger ensemble pieces. Songs like “Do You Hear The People Sing?” yearn for sweeping visuals, a panoramic canvas to illustrate the fervor of a united chorus, a longing the film doesn’t wholly satisfy. Even the grandeur of “One Day More” suffers from disjointedness, the geographical separation of characters creating an emotional disconnect that weakens the essence of the song.

Undoubtedly, the performances are stellar. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne deliver standout acts, with Redmayne’s rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” striking a poignant chord. Russell Crowe, while not a theatrical singer, embodies Javert’s stern persona convincingly.

However, amidst these stellar performances lies a lingering feeling of depletion, not borne from the emotional journey, but rather from the relentless barrage of closeups spanning nearly three hours. The absence of sweeping shots depicting the relationships between characters leaves a longing for a broader, more encompassing view of their interactions.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in "Les Miserables"
Jean Valjohn (Hugh Jackman) and Fantine (Anne Hathaway) in “Les Misérables”

While this adaptation is commendable and bound to garner accolades, it leaves one pondering the possibility of a straightforward novel adaptation starring this exceptional cast. Such a rendition could potentially harness their talents in a manner that transcends the constraints imposed by the continuous closeups, ultimately delivering an experience that leans more toward greatness than goodness.

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