Les Miserables on Screen
I finally had a chance to watch Les Miserables, the movie, this morning, after having wanted to see it since it came out on Christmas in 2012. Though it was a bit long, it was still very enjoyable and entertaining. The casting was inspired. I remember seeing Hugh Jackman up close on Broadway back when he starred in the play, The Boy from Oz. He was truly amazing and talented and I can understand his casting for the lead role of Jean Valjean.
The other leads were also great, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks. All were believable and played their parts with so much heart. It was only Russell Crowe who kind of bothered me. He was OK in some scenes, but in others, his lack of emotion took me out of the story.
Having scene Les Mis only on Broadway a few times, it was much easier to see it on screen played out by this case because I was able to better understand the story and the plights of the characters. I’m glad the movie was made and the songs are always a treat. I have always loved On My Own and Castle on a Cloud. Those are the ones I remember all the lyrics to and love to listen to again and again. And of course, I dreamed a dream. Almost every song is great, including Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of Who am I?
The story centers around Jean Valjean, a criminal who just got through serving 19 years in jail for a stolen piece of bread. He is hunted relentlessly for years by Javert, the policeman character played by Crowe. Jean Valjean starts out a thief but then struggles to redeem and recreate himself. After escaping parole, he resurfaces years later as a wealthy businessman and mayor, and the Fantine is one of the women who work for him in a factory.
Hathaway plays Fantine with such devotion and despair that it really moves you. She wholly embodies the part and makes you feel all her emotions, much as she did with her role in the movie, Rachel getting Married, a role that also earned her an Oscar nomination. She looks startlingly thin in Les Miserables, as she purposely lost 25 pounds to play Fantine when she is ill and dying.
Fantine gets thrown out of the factory where she works and is reduced to selling her hair, her teeth and her body in order to support her young daughter, who lives with a pair of unscrupulous innkeepers. Valjean takes pity on her and decides to take her daughter, the young Cosette, under his care. He raises her and protects her all her life, keeping his promise to Fantine that she will be looked after. Years later we see a grown Cosette, still with Valjean.
Amanda Seyfried plays Cosette as an adult. Seyfried’s voice is perfect for what this role entails. She plays Cosette with innocence, but also power. And her voice is strong, clear and extremely beautiful. I found it hard to believe she was actually singing live as all the actors were required to do for this film.
The story turns then to focus on a group of students who lead the charge in the French Revolution, among them a young man named Marius, who falls in love with Cosette at first sight. I found their love story to be very romantic and the unrequited love of Eponine (for Marius) to be heartbreaking as always. This is an epic story that will sweep you away.
I found the extra features to be enlightening as well. They go into the motivations of Jean Valjean, who Jackman explains as a man wanting to constantly become a better person and do what God expects of him. He explains that theme as something most people can relate to. The desire to redeem oneself in the eyes of God, and do the right thing. The extras also go into the life of Victor Hugo who wrote the book Les Miserables, and it was amazing to learn of all that he had accomplished in his lifetime.
I highly recommend this movie. It’s a pure escape with beautiful music, beautiful scenery and talented, emotional actors. I definitely shed tears during many scenes, and you probably will too.