This was a monumental and groundbreaking renovation coming from the musical stage play since 1980 as historic France and its revolution that spanned for years captured genuinely by the Director and Producers for it to come alive and share for the world to experience!
Lights, Camera, Sing and Applause!!!
Victor Hugo’s hugely phenomenal timeless classic from his 1862 novel with the same title. With his work continued and praised by the people behind the highly successful stage musical they are: Alain Boublil, Claude –Michel Schönberg and music from Herbert Kreztmer. The former two are the same ones who gave the spectacular screenplay while coordinating with William Nicholson’s to do the scriptwriting.
Directed by Academy Award Winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) who helped envision the film as grandiose, spectacular and heartfelt! With Producers Tim Bevan (Fargo), Eric Feliner (Love Actually), Debra Hayward (Pride & Prejudice) and the pioneer in these production tours not just in London but in other countries as well, he is none other than the persevering Cameron Mackintosh (The Phantom of the Opera – Royal Albert Hall) all were catalyst to keep the fight burning…living the dream!
Another commendable aspect of the film was the transition of set pieces amalgamated with special and visual effects that gave its surroundings a surreal look of a nation at war and its citizens scampering in the dirt waiting for their long overdue demise! While engulfed with the palpable scenarios inspired by tag team players Production Designer Eve Stewart (The Hole) and Anna-Lynch Robinson (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) who supervised Set Decoration. Costume Design by Francisco Delgado Lopez (Biutiful) together with Makeup and Hairstyling duo of Lisa Westcott (Shakespeare in Love) and Julie Dartnell (The Lost Prince).
19th century France, the year was 1815…
From its opening sequence, the audience will feel how daunting and horrific conditions were back from those days where prisoners were treated less than human. As interlocking stories pave the way, we focus on a set of people facing life in its bleakest moments but still find the strength to hope in spite their flaws which were drawn in their moments of madness and grief!
With a superb cast backing up the stage phenomenon, they have already won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Film in a Musical or Comedy category. Now, they are gunning for more accolades in two of the anticipated ceremonies from The Oscars and BAFTAs’ coming this February.
Finding the very talented Hugh Jackman (Kate & Leopold) who has so many credentials in stage acting to play an ex-prisoner Jean Valjean is like pulling in a massive ship coming from the galleys! His sojourn for reprieve not just from being a prisoner to a town Mayor but more so as a human being was heartbreaking and earnestly portrayed. After taken in by the Bishop Myriel of Digne, represented by stage alumni Colm Wilkinson (The Tudors), from here his life was never the same! While searching for a meaning of “Who Am I”, to be more than a man, to have a better acceptance for his undertakings and for his trespasses as he sought retribution and like a guiding light salvation was found.
Academy Award Winner Russell Crowe (Robin Hood) as the zealot man hunting Police Inspector Javert! Inspired from the works of Eugene Francois Vidocq a criminal who turned into criminology, he was considered as the First Detective in France and the Father of the French Police Department. Initially Russell was hesitant to take on the role but found it intriguing after learning from the Author’s curator what his character had accomplished and going back to society a redeemed man. But in honesty, what was unredeemable was his voice in singing; it was without cause or conviction of how and officer of the law must be represented noting how far he has reached his goals compared the “Stars”.
But the breakthrough star of the film in my humble opinion was Anne Hathaway (The Other Side of Heaven) as Fantine a grisette, lost in a world that abandoned and left her at the abyss of her sanity and hopelessness. A devoted mother who was doing her best to provide for her only child even when she had literally nothing to spare, nothing except for her physical beauty and her smile. You would really feel her pain and break into tears after seeing what has transpired in her days but that’s not the only thing what we are trying to relay here, what I’m referring was how she sang the piece “I Dreamed A Dream” with absolute vulnerability and melancholy!
Multi-Awarded Filipino Singer, Film and Stage Actress Lea Salonga gave her rendition to the song with absolute grace and intimacy but Anne made it her own. That song was already so awe inspiring for so many years and yet she was still able to give an ante-up performance to invoke the prevailing and moving message in which up to this day I could still feel the audience bawling in the theatre.
Helen Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland) as the unscrupulous and without conscience Madame Thénardier, she was casted once again coming from her last project with the Director which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 2011. Helen has become one of the sought after actresses of today, although having worked most of her career with partner Tim Burton; her passion to play dark and wicked characters on the big screen has proven to be an attribute so far. While comedy centric Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator) the thick skinned as well as ravenous Land Lord Thénardier. His work is well-known and for most viewers and fans, full of energy at the same time with controversy, that is…they both claim he is the “Master of The House”! (absolutely preposterous)
All of us have the every right to enjoy childhood unfortunately for others, a certain maltreated child who we just need to wait since she’s fetching some water or is she still daydreaming from her “Castle On A Cloud”? Isabelle Allen portrays the young and fragile Cosette rescued from her awful caretakers and growing up to be a beauty in the eyes of one man (or two).
Fast forward to 1832, as we welcome singing sensation Samantha Barks (I’d Do Anything) reprising her role from the West End stage play as Ѐponine, the girl who fell in love with a boy who will do anything just to get his attention and affection while sobbing “On My Own” in the rain! On the other end, it was puzzling for her and her siblings to have that kind of disposition growing up, to have the courage, to be generous and committed to her ideals unlike her parents’ unbearable antics for fame and greed! While actor and model Eddie Redmayne (The Other Boleyn Girl) lends his skills to the test as a student rebellion leader Marius Pontmercy, a member of an upper class family and yet he’s fighting a war for the masses while still waiting in a room full of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. A triangle love story has been ensued courtesy of Amanda Seyfried (Letters to Juliet) she plays the grown up Cosette full of life, eagerness and compassion. Her role was finesse but bearable or maybe Samantha’s role was just more intriguing but she’s not bothered by this since she’s busy having a duet with Marius singing “In My Life – A Heart Full of Love” and they did was sing their hearts out!
This was the curriculum conscientiously followed by the writers and that is to make this production as real as it gets coming off from a musical extravaganza and turning it into a cinematic masterpiece. As burdensome as it can be, the cast would record their voice so many times as possible, match it, play it and deliver this as crystal clear for Tom to accept and venerate from. This is the concern and the difference between stage acting and coming from behind the lens, every single detail matters the precision needed in order for the audience to contemplate on the emotions felt by the characters on the big screen no matter how trivial it may be should be perfected! That is the objective of the Director as well as the Cast and Crew by maintaining the kaleidoscope aspects of the novel, it still never let’s go of its essence and content!
The Author have seen France and the country’s starvation for justice which has been the primal point of the novel, it combines so many subplots including politics, religion, poverty, monarchy, family and social diversity, cases that is very rampant throughout history! Although, the premise was concentrated on the needed transition of the government, its laws and its citizens coping with life on how it compensates those who are rulers and for those who are slaves; it also gave emphasis on retribution while crawling back from hell to pray for forgiveness. This has been the ways of man and for this film to really inspire people to do what is right, to affirm ones’ moral obligations for his countrymen and for himself, miserable or deterrent as it may seem for others…if we can only truly understand that the gift of love when genuinely endowed to another person then it will be like seeing the face of God…and that’s all that matters!