Classic Movie Review: Les Miserables (2012)

Posted: September 2, 2013 in Drama
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Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman)  has served 19 years of slave labor, under the watchful, vengeful, eye of police inspector Javert.  (Russell  Crowe) Valjean breaks parole, and escapes to the house of a kindly Bishop, (Colm Wilkenson) who forgives Valjean for stealing some silver.  Valjean makes the most of this second chance and becomes mayor of Montreuil  Sur Mer, and opens a factory.  One of Valjean’s factory workers, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is a poverty stricken single mother who will do anything for feed her child, Cosette,  (Isabelle Allen, Amanda Seyfried) including selling her hair, and her teeth, and becoming a prostitute, now Fantine is dying, and she wants Valjean to take care of the young Cossette.  Always wary of the omnipresent Javert, Valjean pays off the owners of the inn where Fantine has left Cosette, Thenardier  (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thenardier  (Helena Bonham Carter) and takes care of Cosette while still on the run from Javert.

Years later, Cosette meets Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who after an argument with his grandfather takes up the Revolutionary cause.  Marius and Cosette fall in love immediately, but Eponine (Samantha Barks) also loves Marius, and is jealous of Cosette.  Further complicating matters, Javert is still pursuing Valjean.  Does Valjean ever escape Javert? How does the love triangle between Marius, Cosette and Eponine resolve itself?  How does the French Revolution affect these people’s lives?

When I first sat down to watch Les Miserables, I didn’t think I’d like it much less deem it a classic.  It’s a musical and I’m not too keen on musicals from Broadway.  In addition, the movie is set in French Revolutionary times, I thought I was in for a snoozefest.  I was entirely mistaken, this is an enthralling, engrossing, captivating film, that draws viewers in from the first minute and keeps them engaged throughout.  The songs, which I thought would be a weakness, turned out to be the strongest part of the movie and even aided in the exposition of the story.  It dealt with the poor, hungry masses of France in a compassionate tender way, and blended their fates with the fate of the French Revolution in a beautiful, seamless way.  Les Miserables doesn’t try to force tears, it just tells a story and lets the emotion come naturally.  This is the role Hugh Jackman was born to play, and all this time, I thought it was Wolverine.  Jackman’s acting was as good as his singing. Russell Crowe was also very good acting and singing his lines.  Anne Hathaway was wonderful in a small role as Fantine, and yes she can really sing.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter add some much needed comedy relief,  and Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Banks are actors who I’ve barely heard of.  I saw Redmayne in My Week With Marilyn, a very good film, but had no idea he could sing.   I didn’t know Barks at all, and she had a heartbreaking, scene stealing performance.

The writing is superb, I’m sure it’s difficult to take a 2000 page book by Victor Hugo and turn it into something that translates to the screen, but the story was told simply and effectively.  The direction was splendid, there is nothing that catches my eye about the direction, in many movies, but this movie was different, there were all kind of crazy angles and shots, and France looked like a picture postcard, although I suspect some of that was CGI.  I hope it was not most.  Watch this movie, with someone who means a lot to you, you will both enjoy it.

Les Miserables.  Not Miserable.  Enjoyable.


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