“Les Miserables” Takes #1 At The Box Office – But For How Long?

Images Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Box office results are in for the Christmas Day releases and Universal’s Les Miserables has taken the No. 1 spot earning up to $18 million.

After all of the hype for Les Miserables, hearing “Les Mis this and Les Mis that,” I was still skeptical as to whether the musical-to-movie would meet or even exceed expectations. But it did. This film is for those who love the musical and story of the stage production of “Les Miserables,” which was adapted from Victor Hugo’s epic 19th century French novel. The most important factor, for me, was the cast. Academy Award winning director, Tom Hooper and the original Broadway producer, Cameron Mackintosh made the right choices.

Hugh Jackman is Jean Valjean, an ex-prisoner who breaks parole to lead a new life. For decades he is hunted by the ruthless policeman, Javert, played by Russell Crowe. Jackman gives a strong performance certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination. It was Hooper’s choice to have the actors sing live on set, rather than setting a studio track in post-production. Jackman’s singing was filled with emotion. One could feel Valjean’s pain and suffering with every word sung. While Russell Crowe is a great actor, his voice was not as strong and stand-out as the rest of the cast. But, nevertheless, he played a fine Javert; a man who is determined and set in his ways. Years after Valjean has made a new name for himself, he crosses paths with the tortured and weak Fantine (Anne Hathaway). He attempts to save her life and promises by her death bed to forever care for her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen). As Hathaway sung “I Dreamed A Dream,” a ballad filled with heartbreak and broken dreams; the audience is transported to another world. Not only has she proved herself as a great actress, but also a wonderful singer.

Time passes and France is in the midst of the Revolution. Production and set designer, Eve Stewart created a remarkable poverty stricken Paris at Pinewood Studios in the UK, where many scenes were shot. Now Cosette is a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) and finds love at first sight with a boy of the revolution, Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Little does he know, the street girl, Eponine (Samantha Barks) who he’s known his whole life is in love with him. Seyfried, Redmayne and Barks’ performance hold a lasting impression. One of the most beautiful scenes is a love trio scene where they sing “In My Life” and “A Heart of Love.” The comic relief is the fantastic duo of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier; the best thiefs and town and the caretakers of young Cosette. I would actually say the two are brilliant in their respective roles. Carter and Cohen were born to be character actors.

The entire production team successfully created the world of Les Miserables: cinematographer Danny Cohen, costume designer Paco Delgado, makeup and hair artist Lisa Westcott and the original composer Claude-Michele Schonberg impeccably brought everything from the look to the music together. As the ending credits rolled, the entire theater applauded. This musical-to-movie adaptation was a wonderful experience.

Just as the original London stage production opened with average reviews, the film seems to be receiving a similar response from critics. However, despite reviews, the musical became one of the longest running productions in stage history and “Les Miserables” is number one at the box office in the Christmas movie release race. While it may not hold that position for long as musicals and a heavy tale like this are only for specific tastes; I believe that word-of-mouth will help its success.

As Valjean sings, “One day more! Another day, another destiny.”

By Pamela Price

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