Movie Moment: Les Misérables

Finally!! The third and final adaptation of the season and by far the one I’m most writhed to see. My adoration for this musical dates back farther than I can remember and has become a holiday staple in my house. Last year, I got the privilege to see the 25 year reunion, which was phenomenal and now this year, after years of speculation, the film.

**This poster always seems to rattle me. Perhaps it’s her dirty little face, the piercing distance in her eyes, or how her thin wiry threads are tossed to the side by the wind. But somehow it’s perfect.

Les Misérables is the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries, in 21 languages, still breaking box-office records even now, in its 28th year. Helmed by The King’s Speech‘s Academy Award®-winning director, Tom Hooper, the musical was adapted from the book of the same name, which can translate as “The Miserable” or “The Victims.” Written by French author, Victor Hugo, the novel is seen to explore several themes, crossing the gamut from history and politics to religion and architecture.

Official Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert when he breaks parole, after being imprisoned for stealing bread. The pursuit consumes both men’s lives, and after two decades on the run, agreeing to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, Valjean finds himself in the midst of the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris.

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway,Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen

To be very clear, this is a dream cast in way of the our main male leads. Hugh Jackman ( X-Men Trilogy, The Prestige) will be the protagonist, Valjean and Russell Crowe (Gladiator, American Gangster), antagonist, Javert. Jackman and Crowe both have musical backgrounds, Jackman having won two Tony awards (2004, 2012) and Crowe has been a front man rocker for three decades. Both these men are powerhouses on-screen and this story will benefit greatly from their ability to dig deep and portray staid conviction and evoke empathy. Which falls back to phenomenal writing, creating characters that are equally wrong and right at the same time. This story is so raw and electric that there’s no denying it’s emotional impact.

Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries, Batman: The Dark Knight Rises) plays a single mother forced to separate from her child and enter prostitution to fund her education. Screen time is limited for the role of Fantine, for she’s just a catalystic reminder to Valjean of his obligations but her presence shakes him to the core and he quests to find and rear her daughter Cosette. Hathaway, isn’t one of my favorites, but the clips that I’ve seen of her performance floored me. Her character has one of the most heartbreaking songs in the entire musical and she embodies every ounce of the despair Fantine experiences and symbolizes. I believe, every actor has good and poor performances and this is the best I’ve seen from her. Amanda Seyfried (Alpha Dog, Letters to Juliet) is the older counterpart of Fantine’s daughter, Cosette and I have similar impressions of her as Hathaway, though I do believe her performance in Red Riding Hood (2011) was pretty solid. She’s better known for her musical stage performances but she has also done several pop/mainstream films. For me, my interest wanes in Cosette as she becomes a teenager in love, for the tension is gone at that point of her story, though with Seyfried as her portrayer, Cosette may see a more substantial presence in the motion picture. Her love interest Marius and his secret admirer Éponine, are award winning musical actor, Eddie Redmayne (Elizabeth:The Golden Age, My Week with Marilyn) and Samantha Barks who is the only one part of the main cast who took was part in the Broadway stage performances. The amazing and possibly the best stage embodiment of Jean Valjean of all time, Colm Wilkinson makes a cameo appearance as the Bishop of Digne.

Then we have our villains, the cruel and calculating Thénardiers brought to life by, Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G Indahouse, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)and Helena Bonham Carter (Lady Jane, The King’s Speech), who both have a sixth sense of approaching comedy in the creepiest ways imaginable, that always manage to be spot on in every respect. These two bump up the enjoyment factor, for their characters are both hysterically heartless.

Trailer: Les Misérables

Music: The musical was first conceived for a French audience, performed initially at the Palais de Sport and all music was released as a compilation soundtrack in 1980. Three years later Cameron Mackintosh was approached to adapt the musical to English, and today, it is considered the longest-running musical show. There are twenty-six pieces total, encompassing orchestral, vocal and choral songs. The most famous being “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More” and “On My Own.”

I am a huge lover of musicals, but few have the same gravitas that reverberates through opera. But the music in this show, is gripping, bold and bare, equal to the epic that Hugo’s story has become (and possibly written to be). Here’s a snippet of Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream.

Premiere: Christmas Day 2012, December 25

Thoughts: There’s a great difference between facts and truth, righteousness and justice, honesty and sincerity, freedom and equality. This is story that seeks display all these issues without judgement, for these aren’t just words but convictions and ideologies, ways of life that move and breathe within us all. At times, they conflict, others they confuse but they are always chosen as pursuit.
Les Misérables is journey inside humanity, not a quest to prove what is correct or indecent but to uncover the many facets of this life, given time period and circumstance. It’s a story that is considered a classic, for the simple fact that humanity remains the same, though not sedentary. The issues that plague our world from the beginning, remain, because the problems originate within the human heart.


[stills courtesy of beyondhollywood]

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2 Replies to “Movie Moment: Les Misérables”

  1. Oh you wrote about it too! The story not so much (for me as I’ve explained in my bloggie), but the performances, amazing Amazing AMAZING. You don’t get chills for nothing here.

    1. Yep. Been looking forward to this film for quite awhile. Liked it a lot. Cried of course. Think it was a decent film adaptation. Was pleasantly surprised by Hathaway, as I thought I’d be. But it was Redmayne that really took my notice. He is the best Marius I’ve ever seen. Crisp, clear voice, solid performance. Made me care about Marius in a way I never have.
      The story is wonderful, everyone’s story. One of my favorite inspirational tragedies.

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