|Michael A. Maynez|
“Les Miserables” was required reading when I went to high school, that was when reading was still in vogue, before high-tech took all the joy of great imagination from most of us. Having seen diverse versions on stage as well as on screen, I looked with great anticipation to Liam Neeson’s interpretation of Jean Valjean. He is currently portraying Oscar Wilde, on Broadway in “The Judas Kiss”, hopefully he is doing greater justice to Oscar Wilde, for as Jean Valjean, he practically walks through this film, maybe not all his fault.
The material being so well known demands high expectations from so talented a cast. You have last year’s Academy Award winner Geoffrey Russ, for “Shine”, in the role of Inspector Javert, he is no Charles Lauaghton who was pitted against the like of Frederic March in an earlier movie version. Uma Thurman is a provocative , sensual and almost too healthy looking as the doomed Fantine. Claire James, plays Cosette, or I should say plays at playing Cosette. Interestingly enough, after having seen the musical version in London four times (I always went with someone that hadn’t seen the musical) I kept longing for the musical numbers to come exploding into the screen, maybe in time they will film that very entertaining version of this old story, even if Victor Hugo’s turns over in his grave.
The film is beautifully costumed and photographed in Prague and Paris,
very reminiscent of the incredible photography of “Amadeus”.
The picture suffers from lack of mystique, suspense and passion..
Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors and it is very damaging to see
him in a role that lacks the fiery passion it needs. So much may
have been in the screenwriter’s attempt into including all the supposedly
rightful scenes remembered from childhood. Misery will love “Les
TriStar Pictures/Mandalay Entertainment/Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Bille August
Produced by: Sarah Radclyffe, Jim Gorman
Assistant director: Guy Travers
Written by: Rafael Yglesias
Edited by: Janus Billeskov-Jansen
Costume designer: Gabriella Pesucci