STAGE TO SCREENS: Looking at Les MisÚrables Through a New Lens; Recapping the Movie

By Kenneth Jones
12 Dec 2012

Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman
Universal Pictures

There are at least two certain Academy Award acting nominees in "Les Miz": Anne Hathaway, who soulfully sings (in one uncut take!) "I Dreamed a Dream" as the dead-eyed Fantine, especially broken after just having turned a trick; and the ruddy tenor Eddie Redmayne, who will surprise fans who only know him from Broadway's Red (for which he won the 2010 Tony as Featured Actor in a Play) or the film "My Week With Marilyn." Redmayne dips into a well of grief as Marius in "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," offering a completely pure, yearning tenor voice (as a kid, he sang in Mackintosh's Oliver! revival in London). Both songs — Fantine's and Marius' — are filmed in close-up. Something in or behind their eyes makes them unforgettable.

Hugh Jackman, the Tony Award-winning Broadway star of The Boy From Oz, Back on Broadway and A Steady Rain — and internationally known as Hollywood super-hero Wolverine — is unrecognizable as Jean Valjean at the beginning of "Les Miz": gaunt, bruised, bearded, red-eyed, scarred and showing a crudely shaved head. It's an arresting, daring performance throughout. Vocally, Jackman's baritone is strained and pained and nasal, as if fear has poisoned Valjean's ability to express himself with beauty or softness — and that's exactly the case for this iconic character in world literature (it all goes back to Victor Hugo's 1862 novel). Fans may miss a gorgeous and traditional sound here from both Jackman (in a traditionally tenor role) and Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert. Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras and Samantha Barks as Eponine fill any possible vocal void. They offer performances very much in the tradition of the stage musical.