The Oscar-winner descends onto Blu-ray, and love it or hate it, it really looks and sounds amazing....
Universal / 157 Minutes / 2012 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: March 22, 2013
Few films in 2012 felt quite as inevitable as Les Miserables. We knew this big-budget Hollywood affair had a monster cast, that it had hundreds of millions of dollars in support behind it, and that its Broadway source material was just retro enough to be chic yet it still had enough cultural familiarity that even those who didn’t see it live in the 80s and 90s could still hum a tune or two. Throw in an Oscar-winning director following up his King’s Speech success and a new fashion of production that allows performers’ actual voices to come through without having to utilize lip-synching, and you have a veritable silver screen blitzkrieg.
But how good of a movie is Tom Hooper’s Les Miz? What does it teach us that we maybe didn’t already know? The one thing that this new Blu-ray edition of the film proves without a shadow of a doubt is that regardless of any narrative pluses or minuses, Les Miserables is one of the most well-manicured pieces of movie production we’ve seen in a long while. Costumes, set design, armies of extras that seem to stretch out for miles: Les Miz is enormous in both dramatic scope and attention to minute detail, and we as viewers benefit greatly from this. Long story short: Les Miserables is in every way bigger than life.
This, however, ends up being perplexing, because it feels like the movie should come together more organically than it does. Sure, Anne Hathaway’s all-too-short performance is deserving of her Oscar-season awards sweep, but while the revolution at the center of the movie’s narrative hoots and hollers in nearly every sequence, there doesn’t seem to be all that much of a beating heart within its more intimate dramatic syntax. It’s loud and rowdy and frequently dripping with play-to-the-back-seat bigness, but it never feels all that real.
Maybe that’s the point, though. Les Miserables may be based on a resolute Victor Hugo novel, but this is no navel-gazing affair. Tom Hooper’s film is a brazen fireworks display, a grandiose tableau of expensive, exotic panache. The movie delivers as far as updating the stage affair to the big screen, but viewers not immediately swept away by its broad-stroked pastiche might fall out of love with the thing after an hour or so. For as Hollywood teaches us again and again, sometimes there’s a hair-thin line between succumbing to the gorgeous symphony of filmmaking and feeling like you’re just being jerked around.