Why so many Bafta nods for 'bloated' Les Miserables?

Jan 9, 2013

Film gets nine Bafta nominations despite horrible reviews - but stage musical suffered the same fate

THE much anticipated film version of Les Miserables, which opens in Britain on Friday, received nine nominations when the Bafta shortlist was released this morning. Yet reviews of the film include several stinkers.

The movie was bound to attract attention because the stage musical on which is is based was a worldwide success, with more than 60 million people seeing the Cameron Mackintosh production of Victor Hugo's tale of tragedy and redemption in early 19th century France. It is up for best film at the Baftas as well as best actor for Hugh Jackman and best actress for Anne Hathaway.

Yet the critics have been far from impressed. Hannah Betts in The Guardian compared watching the film to "being hit by a truck", while Kate Muir in The Times called it "bloated".

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times "raised the white flag in exhausted defeat," while Anthony Lane in the New Yorker joked: "I screamed a scream as time went by", a reference to the show's best-known song I Dreamed A Dream.

Clearly the Bafta panel are more in tune with the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Robbie Collins in the Telegraph called it "the Mamma Mia it's all right to like", praising "a heart-soaring, crowd-delighting hit-in-waiting".

In the only five-star review so far, Baz Bamigboye, the Mail's 'friend of the stars', praised the British director Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar for The King's Speech but was left off Bafta's best director shortlist today. "Hooper has crafted a work, both stunning and stirring, that holds its own in cinematic terms," said Bamigboye.

The one thing most critics are agreed is that Anne Hathaway gives a fine performance as Fantine. She is now favourite to win the Bafta and thought bound to be on the list of Oscar nominations released tomorrow.

The Daily Mirror's Mark Adams said: "Her performance as the tormented Fantine is surely Oscar-winning, and her moving rendition of I Dreamed A Dream is the tear-jerking highlight."

Another certainty is that the film will dominate the UK box office – an amazing feat considering the stage version's unpromising beginning in 1985. The original RSC London production at the Barbican was described by critics as "a load of sentimental old tosh," and "witless and synthetic entertainment".

Sir Cameron Mackintosh nevertheless took the gamble to transfer it to the West End in December 1985, where it became the second longest-running show after The Mousetrap. It is still running at the Queen's Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

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