Spoilers below! Go see it, go see it, go see it.
Where to begin? The beginning! Man, that opening with the ship. So thrilling and epic. I was so excited that Hugh was playing Valjean. Years ago Cameron Mackintosh (the show's producer) did a Desert Island Discs, and one of his songs for the island was Hugh singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" from the London production of Oklahoma! he starred in. To have Hugh be his Valjean years later is pure joy.
Hugh's voice will never touch the heights of Colm Wilkinson, my favorite Jean Valjean (casting him as the priest was my favorite decision of the entire film), or the divine Alfie Boe, but his acting and heart in the role definitely made up for it. Knowing what I know about Hugh Jackman in real life as a father and person (which is obviously only his public image) as well as his love of musical theater, I'm more than okay with casting him over a lesser known but better singer. The man just REEKS of humility and kindness and love. God, I love Hugh Jackman. His acting choices pleased me as well.
Anne Hathaway was MUCH better than I expected as Fantine. I thought her voice would be too weak, but it made me cry like a baby. Her performance was strong and heartbreaking. Her single take of "I Dreamed a Dream" was so perfect. Thank God Tom Hooper made the decision that certain directors are afraid to take in musicals *cough*ROB MARSHALL*cough*, to just leave the camera on the singers instead of cutting it into a billion snippets to make it more 'exciting.' Let the performance speak for itself, like it does on the stage.
Speaking of which, I thank God for two things: that they didn't replace songs with spoken dialog for fear of people tiring of the unending singing, and that the actors sung live. I hope this is a new standard for musicals to come, especially heart-rending ones like this. This is a movie for the fans of the musical--and thank God. Stop pandering to people who don't like musicals! Take our money instead.
I was least excited about the singing by Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried, but acting and looks-wise they were just fine for their roles. Eponine, Samantha Barks, who reprised the role from the excellent 25th anniversary concert, was great. Her performance didn't make me bawl like past Eponines have, but her voice was fantastic. The Thenardiers were hilarious and I didn't miss "Dog Eats Dog" at all. Nor did I miss the full version of "Turning"--which is the biggest throwaway song in the show to me.
The biggest surprise and delight was EDDIE REDMAYNE'S MARIUS. I love Michael Ball (don't talk to me about that Jonas brother) and I knew Eddie was classically trained in singing at Eton College (or was at least a soloist in his choir), but I was not prepared for how much his voice would move me. Like, more than any other Marius I've ever seen. He was just exceptional. I won't be downloading the whole film soundtrack but you can bet your britches I will be buying every one of his songs. Good God. I was also very impressed with Enjorlas, the Broadway star Aaron Tveit. I loved hearing them sing together.
It's all about a bit of teary blur to me right now (I cried through the whole thing) so maybe I'll have more to say later but this much is true: this film and its crew and cast created the same emotional, stirring, inspiring, and beautiful experience that the musical gives me. To know that I will someday be able to have that experience whenever I need it is such a relief and a wonderful gift.
What did you think???