Les Miserables Masters the Big Screen with Powerfully Graphic Force

Les Miserables Review

Anger. Hate. Hope. Love. Fight. Flight. The whole gamut of passionate emotions lit up the big screen last night as I viewed the new musical-based movie Les Miserables, headlining Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried.

This classic tale follows a script based on the historical novel written by Victor Hugo in 1862, a book considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

The popular Broadway show, the world’s longest running musical according to their website, was my first interaction with this passionate tale when my husband took me to it as one of our first dates. The musical was long but it moved quickly and the characters drew you in to the drama.

The fast-paced movie, albeit long at 2.5 hours, follows a similar script, closely tracking the life of parole-breaker Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who for decades is hunted by a very committed officer, Javert (Russell Crowe in the screen adaptation). Valjean spent 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his sister’s child. Javert stamps his papers dangerous upon his release, making work and life on the outside incredibly challenging for Valjean.

Valjean gets tired of checking in and facing constant degradation and shame by the parole officers. He breaks parole and starts a life under another name, with the help of a priest who forgives the silver he steals. He becomes a successful factory owner, employing a line of women making rosary necklaces, until Valjean finds him one day when in town looking for other criminals at large.

In the confusion, a factory worker name Fantine, played in the movie by Anne Hathaway, falls through the cracks when a foreman throws her into the streets for not giving him the attention he wants. Valjean saves her from a life of prostitution, the only form of income she can find after giving her hair and her back teeth. But, Fantine is dying. In the nick of time, Valjean learns she is leaving behind a daughter, Cosette, which he must save from the hands of truly thieving inn keepers.

As with any new parent, Valjean quickly realizes both the obligation he has brought on himself and the fierce love of a child in one’s care and protection. Time passes and the girl grows into a beautiful and lovely young woman who falls in love with a radical who joins the fight for the freedom of his people. The boy almost dies in the fight until Valjean pulls him wounded from the barricade and takes him through the gutters to safety. Once well, the boy-man is reunited with Cosette and they marry.

Jackman as Valjean gets sick and dies, though the scene is not all that cut and dry since we are treated to a reappearance by Anne Hathaway who appears as a heavenly presence arriving to comfort those the aging man is leaving behind as he transitions from body to soul. All the souls lost in the fight come together to sing at the end and one fights tears over the dead coming together in such unison, so alive, so present. The movie shows the passing of protection from human to heavenly and back again, the hand of God on each individual through the trials of life.

Before tears can flow in any given moment, the story turns and twists and takes you into dark places, filled with both humor and anger, passionate encounters both of love and hate. You aren’t given much time to think, to breathe, before the story drags you to a new depths of humanity and you watch with wide curiosity though you know the tale and the ending. The film relies heavily on the religious aspects of the story to connect with viewers and you aren’t always sure whether you should hate or appreciate Javert who, according to Valjean, was only doing his job however cruel he went about it.

Overall, Les Miserables is a powerful and graphic portrayal of grace versus law, fight versus forgiveness; digging deep within, Hugh Jackman and his richly talented fellow cast members take their acting to a new pinnacle of achievement with this movie.

Facebook
Twitter 

 

Speak Your Mind

*