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It's the first half of 1998's remake (there have been about 20 of them altogether) of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables that gives cinema-goers a real kick. Paced with beautiful realism and driven by examinations of the human heart, the first hour or so is riveting cinema. Then I watched in horror as the whole film fell apart.
Liam Neeson plays Jean Valjean, the classic convict who spends nineteen years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release, an act of forgiveness by a priest allows him to start his life over, and he promises to become a better man.
Some time later he becomes the respected mayor of Vigau, a small but now thriving town due to Valjean's caring direction. Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush) tracks him and his adopted daughter, Cossete (Claire Danes), all the way for breaking his parole, eventually ending up in Paris.
Aside from Valjean, the most intriguing character is Cossete's mother Fantine, played by Uma Thurman. Thurman delivers her best performance in a long, long time - she was less convincing in Gattaca, had nothing more than an idiotic cameo in Batman and Robin, and served as something nice to look at in The Truth About Cats and Dogs. She gives a certain level of charm and charisma to the film, looking great in her role but not too great, as she gives her sick mother role a good amount of realism. Meanwhile, the remaining cast members have a jolly old time prancing across the screen with a) disheartening frowns or b) love-struck smiles. Geoffrey Rush delivers the former, and plays Javert expertly but not convincingly.
The second half of this distinctly modern production of the classic, and wonderful story, is dedicated to a goofy romance between Cossete and a puppy dog lover and, you know, all that jazz about a civil war in Paris. It's all conveyed pretty ordinarily and with little flair; director Bille August (Smilla's Sense of Snow) seems determined to make it all so meticulously and carefully crafted that he loses sight of actually making it interesting.
In fact it was so uninteresting that Les Miserables is in the same league as Armageddon; myself falling asleep through both, in a sea of butt-numbing boringness. But at least it was just the second half.
|(c) Luke Buckmaster|
|Just the facts:
Title: Les Miserables (1998)
|The Players: Liam Neeson .... Valjean |
Geoffrey Rush .... Javert
Uma Thurman .... Fantine
Claire Danes .... Cosette
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed:Oct-1998 Last updated: Last tested: 22-Dec-2008 Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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