Late To The Movies: Les Miserables (2012)
I can’t really say I enjoyed Les Miserables, the big-screen adaptation of the beloved Victor Hugo-inspired 1980s musical, but I liked it in the moments when the material found a way to sneak around the film itself. I went into it a bit wary, and probably a bit prejudiced thanks to the Twitter chatter about Tom Hooper’s direction, but I left feeling that, if anything, the sniping had been understated. The opening 10 minutes of this movie feel like the work of someone with little command of shot composition and even less of a sense of editing. The sets look spectacular but Hooper seems determined to shoot the movie as an homage to a filmed stage production, cutting from here to there for no particular reason and pacing behind Hugh Jackman as he ponders his fate at a monastery like an overzealous dad with an iPhone. In its worst moments, it feels like a film shot on sets years in the making over the course of a long, rushed weekend.
The film calms down a bit from there and the musical itself, when allowed breathing room, has some tremendously moving moments. Here at least, they’re weighted toward the first act of the film and mostly tied to Anne Hathaway’s character who—spoiler?—isn’t around the entire film. The back half’s a slog of badly staged action, lesser songs, and thinner characters. I’d never seen the musical in any form and while some of the songs will stick with me, I suspect my most lasting memories of the film will be my annoyance at the way it was filmed: all those unmotivated, Adam West-era Batman-style dutch tilts and shots of actors positioned on one side of the screen and singing out into a frame that’s 2/3 negative space, connecting with nothing, the viewer least of all.