Directed by Bille August
Written by Rafael Yglesias, based on the novel by Victor Hugo
Starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Claire Danes, Peter Vaughan
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
Congrats to this film for giving me the first Oscar-worthy performance I've seen this year. Yes, Geoffrey Rush is absolutely incredible as Inspector Javert, nemesis to Neeson's Jean Valjean. What the film does right is adapt (as best it can) the 1400+ page novel into a 2 hour and 20 minute film. Next to Rush, the best performance is Thurman as an increasingly wretched Fantine. Neeson does reasonably well with the character given him, and Danes gets kudos as well. Her Cosette is pretty much a one-note performance, but hey, Cosette is a one-note character. Yglesias gets major points for leaving out all the reasons that the characters you're supposed to care about turn into pathetic assholes in the hands of Hugo. For example, Cosette and Marius (Hans Matheson) are young people in love, not young people in love you wish would fall from a tall building. What the film does poorly is adapt (as best it can) the 1400+ page novel into a 2 hour and 20 minute film. It is solid up until the barricades arrive, and then you're suddenly faced with the Cliff Notes version of the book--Valjean warns Marius away from the barricades and thirty seconds later the urchin Gavroche is going over the side. It's a valiant effort to leave as much meat on the bone as possible, but it's a case of too much crammed into too little time. Also, for a movie with this title, why is everyone so clean? These items, coupled with an incredibly weak ending, bring the movie down. Still, Rush's performance alone makes it worthwhile viewing.
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