I normally just jot down notes in a text edit window before I start taking what I think and working that into more coherent sentences. As I tried to recollect everything I thought about Tom Hooper's Les Miserables, I found myself actually just stating the same word again and again and again. "Heartfelt".
The performances were "heartfelt", the story is "heartfelt", and when I tried to just sum up the experience of the film as I left the theater I kept typing "heartwarming". The film, based on the musical which in turn is based on the Hugo novel, has an incredibly powerful heart to it. It's full of emotion and feeling and an ethusiastic gravitas. As time passed on, I found myself thinking about the arc of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) or the purpose of characters like Javert (Russell Crowe) and Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and so many others. It's almost overbearing to treat this clinically. This film is after all more of an epic than one's typical musical.
At first glance I questioned Hooper's decisions in the art direction, cinematography, editing, sound, etc. etc. etc. I wasn't sure if I was noticing too much or too little of artistic flourishes. Then again, isn't it best that I not notice them at all? For a script that is told in song where your average transition is over-emoted for a personal effect, should I have to notice what is intended by a close-up here or a tracking there? The trick of the movie and perhaps the biggest credit one can give to the filmmakers is that all-in-all (or perhaps I was in the best sort of mood) was that I walked away with more feeling than thought, more sadness than observation, or even thinking of consequence more than nostalgia.
The play is rightfully hailed as masterful. The movie seemed to understand why (I'll be damned/overwhelmed to try and break that down) and in turn the result is incredibly empowering.