Four Golden Globe nominations, eleven Critics Choice awards, four Screen Actor’s guild nominations, and the NationalBoard of Review winner for best ensemble cast (to name a few). An accolade list with this much praise would imply a movie that may have completed its theatrical run, and be headed to DVD. However, in this case, as of this writing, the film is not yet released. This film is Les Misé
In our time, movies are created and destroyed in the minds of critics. Their reviews, before the movie has even hit the public eye, create a prepackaged buzz that can guarantee a film’s success weeks or even months before its first ticket is sold. In this particular case, winning awards before the general public has even viewed the introduction, the Victor Hugo novel turned musical turned Christmas event of 2012 seemingly has its position secured.
For those uninitiated; the story told a thousand times over: spanning from 1813 to the French June Rebellion of 1832, on its surface tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French convict released from the prison system after 19 years for a string of infractions rebuilds his life; and in doing so, we see a myriad of subplots surrounding the heart of Les Misérables. The film focuses solely on Valjean, and his pursuit by police inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe. True to the original, the surrounding stories of commoner Fantine [Anne Hathaway], Cosette [Amanda Seyfried], Marius [Eddie Redmayne], and Éponine [Samantha Barks] are not left out. Repopulating Hugo’s original masterpiece.
Possibly the most interesting bit of this film, is a brave new approach to the on-screen musical. Past stage musicals turned film, such as Moulin Rouge or more recently Sweeny Todd, were created by bringing a cast into a studio. Their vocals were recorded, machined and produced to create a pitch perfect, tempo regulated experience of the original works. However, with Les Mis; the vocal tracks are recorded with the film. Each actor can control their own tempo, and speed. The sounds of their actions remain true with the vocalizations during the movie; giving a more realistic, to-the-moment response and reaction more often experienced in a stage performance. Only after the final performance is recorded, is the finished film produced with a full orchestral composition. The actors are given the freedom to act- change their emotional response based upon their situation, and not have to assume or judge months before they’re in costume, or sometimes before having even met, with their costars.
As so much is homogenized and sterilized in the creative works of our society, it is refreshing to be able to experience media without having a team of experts take out every bit of the human element that made it in the first place. While there is certainly a time and a place for the computer perfected aural performance, the decrepitude and absolution of revolutionary era France, surrounded by the squalor of poverty and hunger; a perfectly packaged scene seems almost disingenuous. As carefully crafted characters pour their hearts upon the stage, without the emotion- the audience could easily be lost of the distraction of perfection. Ultimately reminiscent of period films of the early 1990’s, trying desperately to convince the audience of a filthy vagrant, with perfectly white teeth, plump with craft services; or warriors, fresh from battle, in machine hemmed blues and gold. The performance is accepted, but ultimately safe, and not imbued with the gravity it deserves.
Les Misérables was screened on November 23rd, 2012; and closed with standing ovations. Originally slated for a December 14th public release, postponed to Christmas Day due to the conflicting release of blockbuster film, The Hobbit.
Budgeted at $61 million, with a total running time of 2:40. Les Misérables hit US theaters Christmas Day, 2012.