I was a big fan of the stage show. So I went into this movie wanting to like it. Hollywood only makes one of these big musicals a year, and since I like the format, that’s a second reason I wanted to like it. I like Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried. There’s three more reasons.
But I still really liked it even more than I wanted to. I liked Sasha Baron Cohen for perhaps the first time in his film career. I liked Eddie Redmayne for certainly the first time in his film career. Much like the structure of the original novel, the film gives each of the main characters their moment, the bit of time that this is a movie about them, and only them. Yes, that’s also what happens on stage, but the sheer number of closeups add to the effect. Some of the story beats (Valjean’s escape from Javert, the building of the barricade) were much clearer on film than they were on stage. And the freaky makeup they had on Jackman at the beginning, with a brutally scarred skull, short hair and thick beard made it somewhat reasonable that Javert wouldn’t recognize his clean-shaven, permed self later. Stuff like that I really appreciate in a film.
Much has been said (at least to me) about how much Russell Crowe’s singing sucks. I didn’t find it problematic. The character is a robot, so his voice doesn’t have to express much beyond duty and occasional range. But he’s certainly not as good as Jackman (good), or Seyfried (good), or Hathaway (great) or Redmayne (great).
I guess the story (an ex-con adopts an orphan and does everything he can to give her a good life) resonates with me more since I’m now a dad, but I liked this musical long before I became a father, so I think I’m still in a position to give it a thumbs up.