One would be hard-pressed to describe this, despite the wealth of beauty on display, as anything but an ugly film, shot and cut ineptly.
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Even at a generous running time that matches this season's other giant award candidates, Les Misérables seems like it's in a hurry, skittering from one number to the next without interlude. After Hathaway's early high point, it starts to feel numbing, an unending barrage of musical emoting carrying us through Valjean's adopting of Cosette, the latter's first encounter with Marius, the battle at the barricade and a last hour that can feel like it's a non-stop series of death arias.
The tasteless bombardment that is Les Misérables would, under most circumstances, send audiences screaming from the theater, but the film is going to be a monster hit and award winner, and not entirely unjustly.
Yet for all its expected highs, the adaptation has been managed with more gusto than grace; at the end of the day, this impassioned epic too often topples beneath the weight of its own grandiosity.
For fans, this is exactly how the story of Jean Valjean's transformation from thief to saint should be delivered: smothered in bombast.
Stirring and striking, Hooper's epic musical won't be wanting for awards and plaudits. Danny Cohen's cinematography is stunning and Hathaway's Oscar is guaranteed.
Sensitive souls in search of wrenching emotion can be guaranteed their Kleenex moments; you will get wet. But aside from that opening scene, you will not be cinematically edified. This is a bad movie.
While 'Les Mis' ends terrifically, it cannot make up for the largely uneven experience that comes before it. There is no doubt an abundance of passion and commitment in Les Miserables but when the musical isn't connecting emotionally -- which is at least half the time -- it's a lot of blustering sound and fury that could either use a dialogue break or an edit.
As the enduring success of this property has shown, there are large, emotionally susceptible segments of the population ready to swallow this sort of thing, but that doesn't mean it's good.