I was incredibly fortunate to see an advanced screening of the film, Les Miserables, at Lincoln Center yesterday. Tom Hooper, the director, welcomed the massive crowd, saying he had just completed the film at 2 AM, so we were the first audience to see the movie in its completed form. You can imagine how special that made us feel.
The film, as one friend put it, was EPIC. The opening scene was amazing, and I don't want to spoil it, because it was so powerful. People should see it for themselves.
Hooper said he looked to Victor Hugo's novel to guide him through the musical, and I was very impressed at the references to the novel. Granted, I don't remember much of it since my last reading in high school, but ValJean's strength was something that was highlighted, and through Hooper's interpretation, I realize this was physical as well as inner strength of spirit.
Hugh Jackman was fantastic as Jean Valjean, a man who serves 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread and trying to escape the harsh confines of prison. He was brilliant.
The whole cast did an incredible job, particularly Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, a woman struggling to make ends meet for her daughter, Cosette. I have heard many renditions of "I Dreamed a Dream," and Anne's is completely new, raw and real. There was not a dry eye in the house!
I heard one audience member say he felt the film filled in gaps in the musical, because the story-telling was so strong. It was clear why every character was doing what they were doing.
One thing I missed from the stage play was seeing the whole body of the actor particularly in the solos. There were some intense close-ups that made me uncomfortable, but left me in tears, so I guess something was working! :) But I do feel the film will still drive people to the stage musical, because both have something different to offer audiences.
Something I loved about the film was the environment. Everything was so visceral. I felt like I was in this world with the characters.
The ensemble piece "One Day More" was particularly well done, and I loved seeing the personal journey of each character as they raced to get to tomorrow while trying to grapple with the present.
I'll leave the rest of the critiques to other reviewers. Suffice it to say that the film and music have stayed with me, and I'm sure everyone who sees the film will have a very personal reaction.