Red and Black: Two different looks at the holiday’s biggest blockbuster

Joshua Whitfield’s review

Let me be the first to say that the movie adaptation of the musical “Les Misérables” is fantastic. The adaptation’s musical genius, visual appeal, scope and sense of detail make it the best musical I’ve seen in a decade. I heartily recommend this movie to my fellow Mercerians, whether you are a fan of the musical or Hugo’s original novel or if you aren’t a fan at all.
Yet the movie has received criticism from “Les Misérables” purists.
Many of them have argued that the movie’s casting is hit-and-miss. I’d like to suggest, however, that this critique is aimed at the professional actors who aren’t also professional singers. When adapting any musical into a movie, one invariably encounters the dilemma of trying to cast either good actors who can also sing or good singers who can also act. I think most of the casting choices were excellent: Anne Hathaway’s Fantine is the best performance of her career, Cohen and Carter complement each other’s performance flawlessly, Samatha Barks was born to play Éponine, Eddie Redmayne can hit all of the high notes without breaking a sweat and even Amanda Seyfried can warble like a songbird. Furthermore, while many question Hugh Jackman as the male lead, none have questioned his ability as an actor.
The only real criticism concerns Russell Crowe’s complete ineptitude as a singer, yet his sheer gravitas ensnares the audience so that they totally ignore his tone-deafness; this Academy Award winner merely becomes Javert.
A further criticism of the film has been that the film changes many parts of the musical’s arrangement and plot after the transition to the big screen. Yet some of these changes ironically improve the overall experience. Boublil and Schönberg, for example, composed an entirely original song for Hugh Jackman called “Suddenly” to better reflect a moment from the novel in which Cosette rests her head on Valjean as a sign of her love and trust. Additionally, when the filmmakers altered the circumstances of Éponine’s moment of heroism (no spoilers), they changed the scene to follow the same scene from the novel. Therefore many of these changes, insertions and deletions allow the movie to better reflect the original novel than the musical can.
All things considered, give “Les Misérables” a shot. This star-studded tearjerker is bound to hold dominion over even the most Javertian audience.