Film Review: Les Misérables

Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of Les Misérables is a slickly produced musical with great performances.

In nineteenth-century France, prisoner Jean Valjean breaks his parole in order to start a new life for himself. He is pursued by the persistent Inspector Javert. Meanwhile, factory worker Fantine is driven to extremes in order to secure the welfare of her daughter…

Based on the popular theatre production, this film adaptation of Les Misérables has a epic feel to it. The sense of tragedy of Victor Hugo’s historical novel (as the title suggests), is conveyed in this most recent adaptation. Fans of the musical will know exactly what to expect.

The first half of Les Misérables is stronger than the second half. The final third in particular feels rather weighed down, not helped by the running time of 157 minutes. Nevertheless, the film is very watchable overall. With its themes of conscience, poverty, love and authoritarianism, Hooper’s film is dominantly sombre with peaks of emotion. There is some comic relief, but this is minor in comparison to the hardship and loss that punctuates Les Misérables.

Visuals in Les Misérables are rich. The sense of poverty and grime does appear authentic, and contrasts well with the few scenes of opulence. The songs in the film are great, often feeling truly emotive.

Russell Crowe is the weakest of the main cast vocally. Hugh Jackman offers a strong performance as Jean Valjean. Amanda Seyfried is suitably delicate as Cosette. Eddie Redmayne is solid as Marius, while Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide the much needed comedy. It is Anne Hathaway, however, who steals the show with a fantastic performance. Both her acting and her vocal performance really stand out. Elsewhere, Samantha Barks provides good support as Éponine.

This film adaptation of the musical really should please its audience. Les Misérables is a great example of a theatre adaptation finely executed.

Film Review: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech has ‘Oscar contender’ written all over it. From the wonderful performances and Tom Hooper’s direction to the costuming and score, the film is sure to garner numerous nominations.

The Duke of York is crippled with a speech impediment that greatly hinders his public service. This is only an intermittent issue; as it is his brother Edward VIII who is due to assume the throne after the death of George V. As Bertie begins treatment with the unorthodox Lionel Logue, however, the need for public speaking becomes much for necessary…

The King’s Speech boasts a story that is unfamiliar, despite the fame of its protagonist. While most will be aware of the story of Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne, his brother’s speech impediment is a far less familiar tale. Furthermore, Lionel Logue is a little known name. The film sheds light on this interesting character, as well as depicting a side of George V seldom seen.

Screenwriter David Seidler does a great job of combining personal interaction with historical fact. The King’s Speech flows nicely from the momentous moments of early twentieth-century British history to the private sessions between Bertie and Lionel, and the conversations between the future king and Elizabeth. The film is peppered with humour, which often breaks more serious moments. The combination of comedy and drama works adeptly. The King’s Speech is serious enough that the decisive scenes retain poignancy, but funny enough to remain entertaining and enjoyable to watch.

Colin Firth gives an excellent performance as the Duke of York; his stammer is wholly convincing. The character demands sympathy for his obstacles, and Firth effectively achieves this. Geoffrey Rush is great as Lionel, bringing plenty of humour, as well as depth. Helena Bonham Carter conveys both strength and warmth in her role as Elizabeth.

The sets and costumes appear wholly authentic of the era. Tom Hooper shows a flair for lavish period drama with The King’s Speech. The camera work is faultless, and the tracking shots used in the film’s climax are a nice touch in particular. Alexandre Desplat’s score seems entirely in keeping with the tone of the film.

The King’s Speech is a wonderful rendering of an interesting real life tale. It is certainly worthy of the praise it will inevitably receive.

The King’s Speech is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.