Les Miserables (M)
It took just four minutes to change my mind.
I had long ago written Anne Hathaway off as a flimsy actress with distracting possum eyes, a cloying manner and a resume of horrid accents.
But the movie version of the musical Les Miserables featured a performance by Hathaway - in the role of destitute single mother Fantine - which was expansive and haunting.
For the four minutes of Fantine's famed lament, I Dreamed a Dream, Hathaway's was the only face on the screen and it trembled and raged with regret, distress and hopelessness.
Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper insisted all songs in the musical be performed live in front of the camera, so Hathaway and her co-stars sang their career-defining solos with just an earpiece to keep time. The orchestral score was inserted later.
Originally written as a novel by Victor Hugo in 1862, Les Miserables follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man of extraordinary strength who pays a heavy price for stealing bread to feed his sister's family.
Jean Valjean raises Fantine's child, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), but he is relentlessly stalked by his former jailer, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).
Les Miserables is littered with scenes of utter woe, but there is also welcome levity thanks to the comedic talents of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, who play shifty, shambolic innkeepers.
The English-language version of the musical Les Miserables hit London's West End in 1985, five years after the original Paris production. It went on to become the longest-running musical in the West End and, 27 years later, this stunning film rendition sees Hathaway and Jackman in the running for Oscars.
Les Miserables is a captivating experience - two-and-a-half hours of startling performances, a tight storyline and deftly painted characters with vivid loves and losses.
I walked out the door, throat aching from unsuccessful attempts to stifle my howling, and considered buying a ticket for the very next screening.