TALKBACK: Who Gave The Best (And Worst) Performances Of 'Les Miserables?'

Les Miserables Anne Hathaway

If you and the fam headed to the multiplex to watch one of the season's big new releases this week, chances are you caught Tom Hooper's epic weepie Les Miserables or Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. (Or maybe the in-laws dragged you to Parental Guidance, in which case, my condolences.) We'll get spoilery all over Django later, but for now let's get to hashing out the answer to the question that's been on every showtune-lover's mind for months: Which Les Miz cast member totally nailed the live-sung suffering for the big screen (and whose warblings made us les miserables)?

I'll start: Anne Hathaway? NAILED IT.

I'll admit I was tres apprehensive at first listen when the trailers featuring her tremulous Fantine cry-singing hit the web. Watching the whole film, however, it's clear Hathaway and Hugh Jackman are leading a masterclass in sing-acting for the entire Les Miserables cast, and in context the breathy imperfect perfection of Hathaway's "I Dreamed A Dream" is downright heart-wrenching.

It's been said before, but the Oscar already belongs to that hitch in her voice that hits as she's choking on tears while wailing about her miserable prostitute life with Hooper's camera all up in her face — one of the only performances in the film riveting and emotional enough to sustain those damned extended close-ups.

Runner-up for best performance in Les Miserables goes to Jackman, who wows in Jean Valjean's pre-bath scenes with a filthy, feral energy that I honestly didn't think he had in him. Pacing back and forth in the bishop's chapel during "What Have I Done?" Jackman is riveting; you can see Valjean's confused, broken mind reeling as Jackman spits and cries out in song, and Hooper's camera work actually fits the number. It's a shame, then, that the nearly three-hour running time of Les Miserables suffers from Jackman fatigue by the time Valjean's singing his umpteenth song.

On second thought, I'll give Jackman a tie for runner-up with the little kid who plays Gavroche. (His name's Daniel Huttlestone. He's 12. He started his career on the West End. What have you done with your life lately?)

Talk about making the most out of a handful of screen minutes; I'd trade a dozen of Jackman's blah Valjean scenes for more of the impish street urchin who fights on the front lines with the students. I'd watch Gavroche picking pockets, or scamming rich folk, or stealing hearts up and down the dirty streets of Paris. In fact, can we just make him the Han of Les Miz and give him his own Fast & Furious-style prequel where he goes on a Moonrise Kingdom-esque adventure that never ends?

(Also great: Samantha Barks as Eponine, the patron saint of girls harboring unrequited life-and-death crushes on boys who are too dumb to see what's in front of them, Eddie Redmayne with the Eton-trained voice, surprising everyone as the unexpected MPV of the pic, and Aaron Tveit AKA Tripp from Gossip Girl as Enjolras.)

Now for the not-so-great performances. Let's just say that Amanda Seyfried's birdlike soprano trill is totes fine, but I daresay she was wasted in the role of Cosette, AKA The Most Boring Girl In All Of France. I can take or leave Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers, whose slapsticky numbers took some folks out of the abject misery of Les Mis but didn't move the needle for me in either direction.

Russell Crowe did himself no favors in my book with his mismatched 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts belting, but Hooper made it worse with those CG crane shots of Javert, wailing existential above the sewers in a dead-armed stance. I love me some Russell Crowe, but by the time he finally jumped to his death with a sigh of despair, I was rooting for it. Sweet, sweet relief.

So, Movieliners: Did you hear the Les Miserables cast sing? Who made your heartstrings ache the hardest? Who sang the sweetest through the tears? Which cast members would you let warble their most miserable miseries in your castle on a cloud?

READ MORE ABOUT LES MISERABLES:

'Les Misérables' Hits High Notes, But Also Skitters

Great Moments In 'Les Miserables' Mania: Katie Holmes Sings 'On My Own' On 'Dawson's Creek'

Early Reaction: Oscar Race Heats Up As NYC Screening Of 'Les Miserables' Prompts Cheers & Tears

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Comments

  • Jamie says:

    Ranking: Jackman, Hathaway, Redmayne. Jackman for pure acting chops - He totally became Jean Val Jean and I believed every note. Hathaway for absolute heartbreak in the moment, and Redmayne for putting everything into a song that could be an anthem for survivor guilt. Huttlestone was remarkable for his age and a special tip of my hat to the Barricade Boys especially Aaron Tveit and Fra Fee. Just as a side note, Crowe isn't as bad as the rap he is getting. His acting moments are wonderful. The pure singing parts just are not concert quality, but he holds his own in the role and I agree that framing him alone in dramatic pose just didn't aid his performance.

    • Jen Yamato says:

      Yeah, honestly I blame Hooper for a lot of why Crowe's stuff didn't work for me. Casting that voice in the first place, putting him up against Jackman in scenes, posing him with those dead arms... acting is solid but you can't take the acting alone in a movie like this.

  • Yibbet says:

    1. Redmayne (great) 2. Hathaway (really good, but I dunno about winning an Oscar; her scene toward the end drew laughs from my row) 3. Jackman (solid) 4. Barks (adequate, but didn't move me at all) 5. Baron Cohen/Bonham Carter (way too much of them than I wanted to see) 6. Seyfried (boring) 7. Crowe (Razzie nominee for worst supporting actor; didn't seem like a villain at all) . 8. Huttlestone (So annoyingly bad I wanted to applaud when he died, but in light of recent events...)

    • Werten says:

      Javert isn't necessarily a Villian. An antagonist is different from a villain, the protagonist is looked upon as the hero, but NOT ALWAYS. Javert is just doing his job and feels like he need to do his job

  • ReviewerYeah says:

    I agree with all of the article, but at the bottom it's "Who sang-" instead of "Who sung". "Who sang-" is proper and fifth grade enlgish. Very good article and fantastic points-of-view.

  • cainepene says:

    We have grammarians but no music scholars. Jackman's range is too low for most of Valjean. He butchered several of the songs. Those extended closeups were riveting. Crowe a better actor than a singer no doubt. I go Hathaway, Redmayne, Barks, Jackman, then et al. And spare me the Gavroche tweeness.

  • pj says:

    Crowe was LOLworthy. Barks and Redmayne did the best. Hathaway was contrived overracting. By the time her scene came, her close up overacting was no different then the previous I am pretty meh on it. She'll probably win Oscar by default though. Jackman was hit or miss. Cohen and Carter belonged in a different film, they were meh as well. Seyfried hurt my ears but was too boring to laugh at.

  • JAMIE says:

    I'd go 1. Hathaway (perfect and not overacting as one commenter said). 2. TIE - Redmayne (a lovely surprise), Barks. 3. Jackman (did as well as I thought he would, a solid performance). 4. Aaron Tveit (wonderfully cast).

  • Jake says:

    Agree that it goes Hathaway, Redmayne, then Jackman for me. Crowe was certainly not good, but passable. The only ones that took me out of it were Cohen and Carter although their comedy eventually brought it back for me. But their singing was terrible. Awful rendition of Master of the House, which was Hooper's low point in direction as well. Like everyone said, seyfried was boring, but then again, Cosette is kind of boring in the play. She's just on a pedestal the whole time serving no purpose other than an idyllic beauty worth dying for. But not a real character at all.

    Overall, great movie and I don't get the backlash. It was the best adaptation of a play since the 60s. It was a little long, but blame the playwrites for that, not Hooper.

  • Jen Yamato says:

    Updated to include mention of Redmayne's out-of-nowhere singing talents (further reading here: http://movieline.com/2012/12/18/eddie-redmayne-les-miserables-prince-william-michael-ball/).

  • Dan Thompson says:

    When did musicals become about the singing voice? This is a musical play, not a concert. It is way more interesting to see an actor who can get away with singing than a singer who can get away with acting. Musicals are not about pretty voices, they are about applying truth to the lyrics. Russell Crowe is getting way more flack than he deserves.

    I find it hard to say who effected me more, because each character effects me in different ways. I was sad to see that a lot of Eponine's stuff cut - it made her death less significant to me. My only complaint. Fantastic film, do yourself the favour and see it.

  • Amberly says:

    I know many will disagree with me but I think Russell Crowe did a good job. I think he had a pleasant enough voice. And he played his character with a rich dynamic that included a certain softness that many actors playing that part forget. He illuminated the humanity of his character. And he did an excellent job of portraying the conflict of his character. He also did an excellent job with enunciation so I was able to understand his character. I wish everyone would stop being so negative it's not like most people hating on him could do a better job at the part. Bravo Russell know you are appreciated even amidst all the negativity.

  • Lou says:

    The singing was not on a concert level. But as far as putting emotion into their performances, almost all nailed it. That could only have been done with "live" not lip-synched performances. Crowe and Seyfried were miscast. Crowe would make a great Javert, in a non-musical version. Amanda needs to stick to Mama Mia performances. Her voice is good but limited. Overall the film delivered the emotional experience I had hoped for. But in twenty years Lincoln will be remembered more than this version of Les Miz.

  • roleesun says:

    Eddie Redmayne was great and deserves more recognition. Hugh Jackman carried the film. Anne Hathaway was fantastic. Aaron Tveit was excellent as Enjoleras as was Samantha Barks as Eponine. Amanda Seyfreid was very good and cannot be blamed for the shortcomings of the role. In fact, I thought her to be at least as compelling (if not more so) as any Cosette than any stage performance I have seen. Russell Crowe was better in the softer moments than in the confrontational songs and his acting ability brought a sense of humanity to Javert. I thought the endless closeups took away from the impact of the scenes that really called for a closeup. Overall, this film is one of the best film adaptations of a musical and all of the performances are to be commended.

  • Qontella Johnson says:

    read the book, losers- and not the "Kindle" edition!

  • Lori says:

    I thought Russell Crowe was great. Keep in mind, you are not supposed to like his character. I tought the shots of him teetering above the dam showed his nerves of steel and his all-consuming resolve to find this ONE escaped parolee.

  • anonymous says:

    I know this may be cotroversial but I preferred Crowe to Jackman here...yes, Crowe's voice was unrefined, but I thought it worked in his softer moments, while Jackman's voice was tinny and, with higher notes, shrill.

    I did love the rest though, being pleasantly surprised that the thernardiers were as funny as I hoped

    • zozo says:

      I so agree with you - everyone says Crowe's voice was worse but as much as I like Hugh Jackman - thought his voice was shrill on the high notes and just grating.

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  • Dax says:

    Hugh was sensational! Hathaway was horrible, worst singer ever, made me despise Fantine (a character I love on stage and in previous films). Her grim squawks were extremely miserable to listen to.

  • Emily A says:

    I also thought Hathoway overacted terribly, and her singing was AWFUL! Making your voice crack does not a singer make...and she did not need to lose weight to play the part....actual singers who play the part professionally can manage to make the music beautiful and the acting expressive in a way that makes sense.....all I could think about was that she was going for an Oscar here....reminds me of the rule of acting, "Don't INDICATE"!

  • Emily A says:

    btw, check out this Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4yxsRRnvkE Yes they are poking fun at Ann Hathoway, but the person doing the singing in this little clip actually makes the music beautiful! THAT is what this version of Les Miserables missed......Ann's singing was not beautiful.....there was no 'magic' to it.....

  • Strumchick says:

    How about Isabelle Allen as little Cosette? She was a total badass for her age!

  • Ben says:

    8| Russell Crowe is one of the worst? He's the best actor and singer in the movie! Just listen to the song he sings when Valjean is at the barricade!

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