movie: Les Misérables (2012)

You know the title, of course. It began as a novel by Victor Hugo in 1862, with the original (French) version coming in somewhere near 2,000 pages long: fewer in English, but no, I have not read this one. (I listened to the audiobook of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Also long.) It became a sung-through Broadway musical to great success (Wikipedia says it was the second-longest-running musical in the world), and I am now reviewing the 2012 movie, which I saw at home with Husband and Pops, courtesy of our local library.

I was pretty unfamiliar with the story: I read a quick synopsis online just before viewing. It wasn’t hard to follow, though. I’ll make it extra quick for you, since there are plenty of plot summaries out there and you may already know it, anyway. In 1815 France, Jean Valjean is finally released from a 19-year forced-labor sentence for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister, nephew and self. He is, unsurprisingly, resentful. He violates parole and disappears, reappearing to us some years later as a good man, mayor and factory owner who cares about the people he holds power over. Inspector Javert, who knew Valjean as a prisoner, continues to seek him out, hoping to hold him responsible for the crime of skipping parole. Valjean’s continued attempts to do good do him no good. He adopts the orphaned daughter of a local citizen, and goes on the run with his newly formed family. The evil innkeeper & wife who had been fostering the girl repeatedly offer comic relief from an otherwise tragic and horrifying plot. The story’s central conflict crescendos with the Paris Uprising of 1832.

This movie is packed with stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend (one of the ditzes from Mean Girls), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Helena Bonham Carter, and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl). Samantha Barks plays a beautiful Éponine. The imagery is gorgeous; all the costuming, scenery, etc., and of course all those beautiful people. I found the story evocative. And the singing! Who knew Crowe, Jackman, Hathaway, et al had such voices on them? The music was rousing and emotive: it’s not hard to see why the Broadway show did so well.

Am I inspired to read ~1500 pages of English-translated Hugo? No, not just yet. But I will gladly see a stage production of this musical story. It was a great and involving time.

Rating: 8 loaves of bread.

2 Responses

  1. Don’t get me started on Les Miz. 🙂

    Okay, you already did, but I’ll try to keep it short.

    My last girlfriend was a Les Miz fanatic. So, when the original Broadway run was ending, I got us tickets to see it (front row). I really enjoyed it, but it don’t carry over. I listened to the soundtrack a few times, but that was it.

    But the movie knocked me out. I’m not entirely sure why that was the thing that did it, but now I have five versions of the show (including the movie soundtrack) on my music player, and I’ve seen the new Broadway production twice. The best reason I can come up with is that I’m a lifelong movie fan, and I react much more viscerally to movies than I do to stage performances.

    And, as a movie enthusiast, I find some things about this particular movie annoying. But then Anne Hathaway starts to sing “I Dreamed a Dream,” and the tears are streaming down my face, and the camerawork isn’t so vital anymore.

    I had to see it a second time to really appreciate how good Hugh Jackman is — that’s how fixated I was on Hathaway the first time. I had just seen The Dark Knight Rises a few days before, so that was the second movie in a row where she was the best thing in it. By quite a bit.

    Anyway, so as not to go on and on, I’ll just recommend that you check out the 10th anniversary concert version on DVD, or the 25th anniversary concert version (or both!). You’ll hear some of the parts sung the way they’re supposed to be sung. 🙂

    If you’d like to read more about my Les Miz obsession, for some reason, you can go here:

    • Anthony, you are a treasure. Thank you! I am sure your affinity for the movie format accounts for this preference. I wonder what you’d think of the National Theatre Live performances I’ve been seeing lately – theatre filmed (quite artistically, I think, but you’re the expert!) for the screen.

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