Les Miserables is based on the classic by Victor Hugo and transformed into a British Musical which moved to a Broadway show in the 1980s. It's now getting it's due on the silver screen and is worthy of the theater experience. Directed by Tom Hooper, he actually had the actors sing their parts. No special dubbing later. Thus, many of the numbers are extra impressive for that effort. The movie is all music. Let me repeat - it is a musical with very very minimal talking. Now, if you are still with me - here's the scoop.
The story takes place in mid-1800 France - a time of huge contrast between the rich and poor. We meet Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who's been in prison for years due to stealing a loaf of bread. Once out he has to evade the evil Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) and try to transform himself. Once a thief always a thief, and yet a crucial church encounter changes his soul. He manages to become the major of a small town and a factory owner. Unfortunately there's an incident and one of his young workers is kicked to the streets. Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is forced into prostitution and she tries to send money to her daughter.
Lives intertwine and Valjean ultimately eases Fantine's death by vowing to care for her girl, Cosette. Years march on and at different times, Valjean must flee with Cosette because Javert shows up. Finally, we get to the French Revolution. Cosette falls for a young rich fellow (Marius) who is fighting on the poor people's side. Marius and brawny young men build a barricade and face the French troops head on. Once again, Valjean and Javert butt heads. Valjean and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) are pulled together, war and possible death lurks, and love wins.
I just condensed a huge book, a three hour show, and an almost three hour movie into two paragraphs. Whew! So, here are some salient points. The movie is a tad too long. That's only one complaint - some editing needed. The other is that Russell Crowe was miscast as Javert - his voice is one tone and he stays too stoic. He needed to emote a bit more.
Now for the goodies - Hugh Jackman is in the role of his lifetime. He sings, he acts, and we root for him and his soul. The song "Bring Him Home" is chilling. Anne Hathaway as Fantine is excellent. She's not in the film for long, but her tremulous "I Dreamed a Dream" song will bring tears. Wow! And finally, the young men at the barricades - I loved their numbers. Eddie Redmayne was a standout and his songs of yearning and sadness, etc were solid. There's some comic relief courtesy of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the innkeeper and wife - they are nuts.
All in all, life in mid-1800 France looked darn miserable, but the human spirit prevails. Les Miserables, the movie, shall be rich in Oscar nominations. If you like musical drama, bring a hankie and hunker behind a barricade of popcorn. Vive la revolution!
Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. She considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a writing career after eons in the business world. Joanne enjoys reading and movies, and is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba.