When I saw the initial trailer for Les Miserables, my mouth hung open as the dormant inner theater kid came out. Over ten years ago I saw the musical in London, have read a version of the story, listened to a radio theater production, and seen the Liam Neeson non-musical version. Needless to say, I love the story of God, Jean Valjean, Marius, Eponine, Fantine, and the people of France (with British accents of course, because that is logical). I love the music equally, which made the news that all of the actors would be singing live during the shooting of the film all the better.
Does the film version hold up to the musical Les Miserables? Absolutely. It does not have identical theatricality, but instead highlights the emotion of the story as the camera zooms in on the actors' faces. The majority of the actors don't go for the pretty version of the song either, which only makes the listener actually feel the meaning of the words. Director Tom Hooper doesn't shy away from the religious themes of Les Miserables through the life of Jean Valjean either. While there are a few slower moments, as a whole the story and music stick.
As for the actors who were wonderful, I'd have to point out Samantha Barks as Eponine. Everyone is mesmerized by Anne Hathaway's performance as the tragic Fantine, but I believe Samantha does just as well. The story of Eponine becomes all the more heartbreaking in her performance. Hugh Jackman's emotional range and theater skills made him well suited to the ultimate role as the prisoner who is transformed by a single act of mercy. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide needed comic relief to the story, creating vivid swindlers, while Eddie Redmayne's voice carried his role of Marius, the idealistic revolutionary. Still, the two characters who stole the film were Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), the best friend of Marius, and Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), the little boy who joins the cause of the French revolution. I kept thinking that Aaron Tveit could have easily played Marius as well, with his passion and voice so powerful in the film. I never paid so much attention to the role. As for Gavroche, well he's the heartbreaker of the story.
While I loved the young version of Cosette, I wasn't crazy about Amanda Seyfried's voice. She did well, it just was a little high. Russell Crowe acted beautifully as Javert. His voice, a little on the bombastic, always loud side, was a little distracting.
All in all, I'm still singing the songs of the film, remembering the story, and appreciating that millions more will discover the beautiful story of love, hope, suffering, bravery, sacrifice, and redemption. It was wonderful.