Les Mis cast dreams an Oscar dream

Good reviews ... Anne Hathaway as Fantine.
Good reviews ... Anne Hathaway as Fantine.

IT'S exactly one month before Les Miserables hits cinemas but Oscar buzz is already building for the star-studded musical.

The film, starring Australia's Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, was given a soft launch at the weekend, opening to small audiences - largely made up of movie critics - in New York, Los Angeles, London and Australia.

The film's director, Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar two years ago for directing The King's Speech, was at many of the screenings, keeping a watchful eye on the audience reactions. The British director said he only finished the final print of the film one week before the screenings.

By all accounts Hooper can breathe easy. Described as ''bold'' and ''extravagant'' the movie wowed the critics, and in appropriate fashion for a story better known as a much-loved theatre production, it received lengthy standing ovations.

Audiences reportedly also burst into applause following some of the film's show-stopping numbers, particularly Anne Hathaway's rendition of I Dreamed A Dream.

The media was asked to keep a lid on any reviews of the film for the time being - Sydney viewers were forced to sign a legal waiver and the cinema was patrolled by security wearing night vision goggles - but some critics couldn't help but share some initial thoughts, with Twitter proving a handy medium.

One US critic raved: ''Hathaway wins … I wept. Film's a triumph.''

The Los Angeles Times critic Steve Zeitchik was more subdued but described Hathaway's performance as ''a standout''. He was less enthusiastic for Jackman and Crowe, merely describing their singing as ''solid''.

''The movie offers some rousing emotion and vivid set pieces, uneven pacing and the sight of Russell Crowe singing,'' says Zeitchik. ''He's fine as the law-enforcing Javert but, like Hugh Jackman's Jean Valjean and the other males in the cast, pales next to the women, Amanda Seyfried's Cosette and particularly Anne Hathaway's Fantine, whose single-take, close-up I Dreamed a Dream is bound to bring down multiplexes and land her on Oscar ballots.''

Roger Friedman of Showbiz411.com was more generous to the antipodean stars, predicting Jackman will earn a best actor Oscar nomination.

''The movie hangs on him, and he carries it from beginning to end. It's his best work ever, the pinnacle for him as he combines his musical and dramatic talents,'' he said.

The real triumph so far has been the campaigning from the film's stars. Hathaway has so far grabbed the lion's share because of her strict diet. Hathaway lost a ridiculous amount of weight to play Fantine, telling Vogue magazine she ate only a couple of slices of oatmeal paste a day.

Les Miserables opens in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day.

This story Les Mis cast dreams an Oscar dream first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.