The Dream I Dreamed: A Review of the New Les Misérables


Isabelle Allen is featured on the new Les Misérables poster, emulating the original illustration of Young Cosette on the old playbill.

Sure, I suppose I’m a rather emotional guy. I do get worked up on occasion, perhaps raise my voice once in a while, and, yes, I’ll shed some tears every now and again.

But while watching the premiere of Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables on Dec. 10 at the Ziegfield Theater in New York, my tear ducts were absolute faucets.

Now, let me start by saying I have seen three productions of Les Mis, so not only did I know exactly what was going to happen throughout every step of the film, but I also had enough experience with the show that I had already committed quite a few lyrics to memory. This led me to expect minimal surprises from the movie.

I was happily—oh, so happily—proven wrong.

Around every turn lay fresh, new, wondrous pieces of cinematographic art, and some tremendously touching musical heartbreak around each bend. One of the innumerable images which will forever remain with me is Young Cosette, played by Isabelle Allen, wandering alone in the woods to fetch water from a well. There was a haunting beauty in the white haze surrounding the innocent, little girl, and a somehow welcoming fear when, at last, Jean Valjean—played by Hugh Jackman—entered.

And this isn’t even to touch on the aspect of the musical direction, which, let me say, was astounding. I still have the entire soundtrack stuck in my head—a feat I didn’t consider possible, as I didn’t think three hours of music could be playing all at once in a human head.

The most impressive aspect of the music specific to this film, however, was Hooper’s idea to make all the singing live takes. He’s right in saying there’s something artificial about lip-syncing, and with live singing it’s all about the authenticity and the acting as opposed to pretty sounds. This made for a heart-wrenchingly realistic portrayal of each character, from Anne Hathaway’s Fantine to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Thénardier.

After the screening I had the pleasure of meeting Hooper and was able to tell him of my high esteem for his work, and praise him for his utter brilliance as a director. Making a fool of myself, I told him it was “literally mind-blowing” and that “I have never seen anything like it before. Ever.”

Being the humble man he is, he shook my hand, smiled crookedly, and said in his soft, British accent, “Really? Well, I’m glad you think so.”