Les Misérables (2012)
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: William Nicholson, Alain Boublil,
Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer
Cinematography by: Danny Cohen
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne
Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne
I don’t do musicals. I appreciate them for what they are, but as a genre in film, they’ve always been a fleeting, rather than a permanent presences in my viewings of them. That all changed with Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. I’ve never read the entire Victor Hugo novel, nor have I seen any of the previous musical adaptations (be it on stage or film), but this film moved me to pieces and then some, with its music, its acting, and its ability to showcase the setting in such an epic fashion. This is a film that belongs to the actors, and they deliver in spades, be it Hugh Jackman, who practically carries this film on his shoulders; or Anne Hathaway, who, despite being on screen briefly, delivers a performance that haunts you long after you’ve finished watching. Tom Hooper’s decision to have the singers sing live is a masterstroke, that especially pays off with Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” (the film’s worth watching for that sequence alone). He has definitely grown as a director from the more calculated King’s Speech. He displays an understanding and love of the material, using single takes and extreme close ups to literally put the audience face to face with these characters.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: David O. Russell
Cinematography by: Masanobu Takayanagi
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence,
Robert DeNiro, Jacklyn Weaver, Chris Tucker
A dramatic romantic comedy. A dram-rom-com. I can think of no way else to describe this film. It’s a blend of the two genres, and for the most part, it seems to carry each forward to the best of its ability, helped greatly by the ensemble cast at hand. It’s pretty familiar territory, you know, the typical bipolar boy meets crazy girl meets dysfunctional family meets football meets dance contest. David O. Russell knows how to craft a dark and dramatic, yet effective screwball comedy, and he succeeds with Silver Linings in the same way he did with his first three outings as director: Spanking the Monkey, Flirting with Disaster, and Three Kings, balancing the thematic elements with the characters and actions. As mentioned, the cast is uniformly excellent all around. Bradley Cooper has a lot to shoulder and he puts in a performance that I think finally elevates him to the type of leading actor (rather than leading man) he knows he can become. His performance of course, is nothing without Jennifer Lawrence, who, after Winter’s Bone, has only grown as a performer, and I would very much love to see her in more fare like this over say The Hunger Games. The two are perfectly mismatched, the sanity to each other’s insanity, and it’s a rare treat to enjoy watching two characters not only discover, but genuinely fall in love on screen from the very first time they meet. The supporting cast, rounded out by Robert DeNiro (who finally gets to engage an audience/film in a way that I haven’t seen in quite some time), Chris Tucker (emerging from film obscurity and doing a fine job), and Jacki Weaver (playing a quiet, yet highly observant mother of the two neurotic men in her life), are excellent. As mentioned, the genres themselves may not be pushing any boundaries, but the film’s sheer ability to take those genres and present them in a refreshing way is a delight to behold in every frame.
Human emotions. Human drama. Humanity discovered amid humanity lost. I dreamed a dream, and never forgot, our dance in the street, the final seconds on the clock.