Les Miserables is musical drama directed by Tom Hooper. It was originally an 1862 French novel written by Victor Hugo that was adapted into a musical. The story, set in 19th century France, follows Jean Valjean, a man who served nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. After these long years being treated as little more than a slave, Jean Valjean is released, but is on parole for life. Due to his record, he isn’t able to get a job, find shelter, and is frequently beaten and scorned. His bitter contempt at the world is drastically altered when a kindly churchman offers him a place to stay and food. Even after he attempts to steal some silver from the church, the man claims to have given it to him and tells Valjean to use it to become a better man. Touched by one man’s kindness and mercy, Valjean vows to change his life for the better and help others. He breaks parole and starts a new life. Javert, a policeman with a skewed perception of justice, recognizes Valjean and spends almost the entire course of the film hunting him down with a vengeance. Fantine, a woman who used to work under Valjean, is unfairly fired and is desperate to make money to send to her sick daughter, Cosette. From raw devotion, Fantine sacrifices her hair, teeth, and even prostitutes herself. Finding her in a sickly and heart-breaking state, Valjean promises that he will care for her daughter before she dies. Les Miserables is two hours and thirty-eight minutes full of heartbreak, love, forgiveness, friendship, guilt, devotion, sacrifice, suffering, brutality, and hope.
The cast of characters were definitely chosen with great consideration. Jean Valjean is played by Hugh Jackman, who displays vivid emotion and exceptionally impactful acting. Javert is played by Russel Crow, whose somber and fervent demeanor fits the character very well. Anne Hathaway plays Fantine, who gave a tear-jerking performance and showed raw emotion, conveying the brutality of her situations. An actor such as she, to move the audience and to become the essence of her character, is rare. The grown-up Cosette is played by Amanda Seyfried, who is the only actor who I believe to be poorly casted. The emotions of love fell flat and her voice sounded like it was strained while she was singing. Samantha Barks plays Eponine, the girl in love with a man who doesn’t recognize her feelings. She definitely stood out for me and has brought very realistic emotions and moments into the film, along with a rich and memorable voice. Marius, who fights in the rebellion and falls in love with Cosette, is played by Eddie Redmayne, who did a fine job singing-wise, but I believe that he could’ve played up some moments even more so. Every actor provided a solid image for each character and the aesthetic fits. As far as the acting goes, the actors certainly didn’t downplay any of the key moments, though some opportunities were lost, mostly in the feeling of love between Cosette and Marius. The script is made even more powerful and impactful by the actors’ vulnerable displays of emotion. Overall, it is a quality cast whose performance left me stunned.
Despite almost every line being sung or lyrically said, the film is very realistic and compelling. In fact, the most extraordinary element in the film, for me, is the music. In every one of the fifty memorable songs, the stark words make each character come to life. Their suffering is made apparent and relatable through eloquence, such as the situation of one-sided love. The film also offers phenomenal singing, especially from Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Samantha Barks, though there were some weak links (Amanda Seyfried). The vile surroundings of the people living in poverty are detailed, and it makes the scenes very graphic, which I applaud. The brutality of this era shines through in many different sceneries, such as the merciless killing at the rebellion when a twelve year old boy is shot and no one is left alive. The French police are also very menacing and look down on those in poverty. The serene environments of churches are decorated and feature great lighting. The costumes are historically accurate, which is very important in a film like this. Those who are poor are caked in dirt and rags, while those who are a little better off are crisp and dapper. The special effects are very realistic. For example, the weapons used in the rebellion intensify the situation and absorbs the audience in, a very attractive element for me.Les Miserables delivers the message that we can all be saved by God’s grace, even on the threshold of despair. One of the most meaningful lines of the entire film, and my personal favorite, is: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Through every blood-curtailing fight, tear-jerking death, and heart-warming moment of love, Les Miserables can’t be anything but unforgettable and has left a lasting impression on me.