I Dreamed of a Great Movie: A Review of Les Misérables

By Kathryn Simmons on January 28, 2013

A heart full of love is what I have for the film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. Set in 19th century France, Les Misérables focuses on the life of the undeserving poor. Prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, which he planned to give to his sister to help feed her starving family. Consumed by hatred and tired of spending 20 years in prison, he breaks his parole. This unfortunately leads to lawman Javert (Russell Crowe) and his pursuit of Jean due to his belief that no criminal can ever change.

Valjean does change, however; and he becomes a factory owner as well as the mayor of a French town. He uses his wealth to help Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his factory workers who has turned to prostitution after unfortunate circumstances. Valjean promises to take care of Fantine’s orphaned daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), becoming a surrogate father to her. The rest of the movie takes the viewer through their story.

I am quite fond of musicals, and I had been pining to see Les Mis since the first previews. I was slightly hesitant, however, since an almost completely sung-through musical is not part of that interest—and I am so glad I never truly let that thought come to the forefront of my mind. Les Misérables is hands down one of the best movies I have ever seen, possibly THE best due to its artistic value. I have worked with individuals before who have next to nothing, and the ways in which the film unforgivingly depicts the poor is more genuine than most of the fairy-tale crap out there. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for happy endings, and I am a romantic at heart, but I feel there aren’t enough movies that show the real sides of humanity. Les Mis did that while still keeping the storyline and plot at appropriate level for more than one audience, including us romantics.

I enjoyed the way the film was directed, particularly the scene and time changes. One that sticks out in my mind is when Valjean sings of what he’s done. The song lyrics end with “Another story must begin!” The music fit well with each change, and this worked perfectly in transitioning the focus from him to Fantine, and then eventually to how they meet.

The acting is wonderful, completely believable, allowing me to feel like I was there. Furthermore, the unparalleled emotional depth to the music is heart wrenching. I did not know Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe could sing, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them as well as the others. The actors and actresses are not always on key, but that is intentional; the emotion needed to come through and convey what they are going through at that moment.

The film’s title suggests a depressing and dismal story. The viewer is certainly subject to some tears when seeing this film, but it is completely worth it, and much more. There is so much more to Les Misérables than words can express. It truly is one of the best films of all time.

* Photos courtesy of IMP Awards and Bloomberg

I am a Clemson University alumna and a current grad student at the University of South Carolina--yes, you read that right. I am the Vice President of a non-profit organization that is devoted to service. I also market for them in addition to others who let me take them on as clients. I love art and graphic design, reading, traveling, spending time with friends and family, anything Castle (the TV show!) and singing.

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