What Tom Hooper did with the blockbuster Hollywood remake of musical Les Misérables is have his cast of talented actors and actresses perform the songs live whilst filming, recording the raw vocals and only adding the orchestration post-prod. The result - Les Misérables: Highlights from the Motion Picture - is a heartbreaking, emotional soundtrack that is distinctive in itself and I would say not to be compared to the stage musical version.
As a cast of actors-first, these songs have a particularly different sound to the original theatre version, so I'm not going to compare them both because both have their merits in their own right. Much has been said of Anne Hathaway's Fantine, singing the heartbreaking I Dreamed A Dream. Indeed, the flawless Hathaway (one of my favourite actresses in this generation), fills each and every lyric of the song with a heartbreaking story and you can feel that it was Fantine actually singing it from her heart. Hugh Jackman, with his theatrical background, needs no introduction. His Jean Valjean is determined in Bring Him Home, contemplative in Suddenly, but I noticed his Aussie accent seemed to have surfaced a tad in Valjean's Soliloquy, so it was quite funny to listen to.
The same can't be said of Russell Crowe, whose portrayal of the corrupt Javert has been criticised for not living up to the rest of the cast. I'm not saying he can't sing, because it sounded decent. But it also felt forced, almost like he was conscious of each and every note that was being sung, and not really conveying much emotion. Such is evident in the forgettable rendition of Stars.
Eddie Redmayne is probably the underdog here, with his tenor-like tones fanning the flames of many a girl's heart. The British actor here mesmerises with his version of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, a melancholic track that builds up at the early 2 minute mark, and you can feel his angst, and maybe a hint of anger. On My Own by singer-actress Samantha Barks is also worth a listen, with its tinkling ivories lending her vocals a soft, intimate backdrop to a commendable performance.
If you have no time for the three hour musical (shame on you!), then this soundtrack filled with the highlights should be enough to tide you over till the DVD comes out. Be sure to grab a copy then and watch it in its full glory.
Track Cuts: I Dreamed A Dream, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, On My Own, Castle in the Clouds, Master of the House, Suddenly