Les Misérables is a wonderfully tragic movie
Les Misérables is a wonderful but terrible experience. Any of you who are familiar with the musical should know exactly how I could say that and still love the movie. Any of you who are not familiar with the musical, ... what's up with that?
It's not a light show. Not in the least. If you go to see it, be ready to be raked over the coals. That isn't to say that there aren't plenty of moments to enjoy. In fact, even many of the tragic moments are extremely enjoyable.
Not fun. Enjoyable.
But first, the story
The movie starts in the year 1815 with a French prison gang. It's a very dramatic scene to open on as the teams of convicts sing their emotional song as they pull a giant ship into a large drydock slot. As the song ends, we come in on one prisoner: Jean "24601" Valjean (Hugh Jackman). He's being released from prison after an 18 year stay that started with stealing a loaf of bread. The man giving him his release papers, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), stresses the need to follow the conditions of his parole, and his disbelief that Valjean could ever be an honest man.
Valjean finds his way to a monastery where he steals the silver in the middle of the night and runs. He gets caught by the local constabularies and the bishop (Colm Wilkinson) insists that he'd given the silver as a gift, plus two candlesticks that Valjean must have forgotten.
That act of kindness changes Valjean tremendously. He breaks his parole, abandons the name Jean Valjean, and becomes a respected business man and community leader. He's not perfect, however. One moment of turning a blind eye gets the lovely Fantine (Anne Hathaway) dismissed from his factory and driven to a life as a woman of the night, just to provide for her daughter.
When Valjean learns of the result of his actions, he promises Fantine on her deathbed that he would take care of her daughter who has been under the neglectful eye of Mr. and Madame Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter [on loan from Tim Burton]).
There's plenty more to the story, but it would take an entire hub just to do it justice. Years later, the young Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried) meets and falls for Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a young revolutionary and Valjean is constantly chased down by Javert and presented with rather difficult choices to either be the man he wants to be or live the life he wants to live.
Dot dot dot
I'll start by pointing out that I really did like this movie. I have a few nits to pick, but overall, I was extremely satisfied.
First off, while the singing is all at the very least competent and frequently outstanding, there are moments here or there where you can tell that they've cast actors who could sing, rather than singers who could act.
Jackman, for instance, is no stranger to musical theater, and does a great job in the part. But many of the songs that the character of Jean Valjean is given don't exactly fit his voice. It's slightly pinched when you want a broader, deeper sound. But I absolutely cannot find fault in his casting in the part, because more important than the singing, is the way that he really emotes through the songs. You feel everything he is going through.
You feel the entire movie.
I cried at the end. In the final scene between Valjean and Cosette in the monastery I just couldn't help it.
And it's not just because almost every character you ever care about has died. Even without all the other deaths in the movie, I would still have cried at that scene. And it's almost purely due to Jackman's portrayal of a tormented man who has dedicated his life to personal redemption at the cost of his own happiness.
But what do you think?
Me, I give this one a strong 8 / 10. Nearly a 9.
Les Misérables is rated PG-13 for sexual references, a bit of language, revolutionary violence and other thematic material.