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Review: Les Misérables

By BETSY SHERMAN  |  December 20, 2012
2.5 2.5 Stars

For his adaptation of the kitsch-fest known as Les Miz, Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) bets heavily on his cast, and mostly wins. His musical strategy is to have the singing done live on set, and to have the camera bore in on the actors, especially during solos. The singing does indeed have immediacy, and the close-ups give the audience intimacy with the characters. Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, voices big themes of guilt and redemption with the hit-you-over-the-head lyrics, but what he personally brings to the role is a restless physicality. Anne Hathaway is raw and touching and sings like an angel as Fantine, the doomed factory girl, and Samantha Barks is terrific as street-smart Éponine. We all lose with Russell Crowe's constipated performance as Valjean's pursuer, Javert. But the piece isn't only about individuals; it's also about a people's rebellion played out against a satisfying backdrop of 19th-century Parisian filth.

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