Les Miserables (1998)

This one has three memorably charged moments:  in the final parting 
of the Bishop and Jean Valjean; when the mayor forces the inspector 
to release Fantine; and when we finally meet Cosette's caretakers.  
The rest of this non-musical adaptation (the 18th filmed version, 
or so says the Internet Movie Database) is adequately adequate.  
That is, at least for the first two-thirds.  Liam Neeson leads a 
very watchable cast through a proven story that's boosted, here, by 
exceptional period detail and a strong score by Basil Poledouris.  
When the story abruptly jumps ten years forward, however, the pace 
picks up and we're suddenly rushed headlong into plot twist after 
plot twist after plot twist.  In these last forty or fifty minutes, 
director Bille August (SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW) starts throwing 
characters and situations at us, without providing enough emotional 
room to adjust to the rapidly evolving events.  (Hell, even on an 
intellectual level, stuff doesn't entirely make sense.)  Worse, the 
Paris-set sequence lacks the scale that you'd expect from such a 
seemingly epic production.  August and Company's take on the Big P 
is more of a backlot version, with merely hundreds of extras when 
thousands are needed.  By the big finish, there's nothing special 
to the main characters' final confrontation.  That juice stopped 
flowing some time ago.  With Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Claire 
Danes, and Hans Matheson, none of whom register as well as they 
should.  (Rated "PG-13"/135 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: May 3, 1998

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