Seeing as how Les Miserables came out yesterday, (now available on Amazon
), you are either reading this as a fan of the musical who has most likely already seen the movie, or you want to see what all the hoopla is about. If you are of the latter camp I am going to say you are in for one of the most moving pieces of cinema of this generation. For those of you who love the musical and haven’t seen the film yet I have one piece advice for you, forget everything you know about the musical!
Prisoner 24601, known as Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Set post-revolutionary France, the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion.
I posted a few weeks ago about how I [was] Starting to Worry About Les Miserables
. If you constantly compare the musical to the film you will be let down on a musicality standpoint as many of the actors are better known for that then for singing for a reason. But that is merely one thread in the tapestry of the film version.
I wanted to highlight four scenes that were the best experiences for me, and I’d like to see if they were the same for you. I immersed myself in Les Mis soundtrack, video clips, and stage recordings, and it was a bit of a mistake. Although I did not love Hugh Jackman’s musical performance, his acting carried over and help to move me. Particularly in Val Jean’s Soliloquy
where is wrestles with his hatred for the world, and yet tried to reconcile himself to God. The cinematography as he paces back and forth with the music away and toward the reliquary was masterful.
One of the best known and best loved songs of Les Miserables is I Dreamed a Dream
sung by the character Fantine. You may remember the sweet and triumphant version that help Susan Boyle
raise to internet fame. But with all the cheers of the audience you might miss the words and meaning of the song. It is of despair and sorrow and Anne Hathaway makes you feel that. Our theatre audience applauded at the end of it.
My favorite character of the musical version was Javert. Russell Crowe’s version of him does not command respect the same way the stage version does, but his scene of The Confrontation
with Hugh Jackman was great feat of sing fighting. If they had added dancing, I think West Side Story would have been jealous.
In this film version though Eddie Redmayne should have been top billing. One of those actors you know the face of, but can’t name anything he has been in, this will be his breakout role! As a tenor myself this has always been the role I wanted to play. (That or the Army Officer at the Barricade.) As he sits alone at Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
he makes you feel his sense of loss. As he stares into the camera with tears rolling down his face I’ll admit it was the scene made them roll down mine.
As with a story about “The Miserable” the character encounter some depressing circumstances. The final act of the movie takes place during a revolution where many are killed. Although the deaths are not bloody or graphic, they do carry hard impact for the ones who come to be beloved characters. The innkeeper played by Sacha Baron Cohen is very entertaining (and the only character who actually has a French accent), but his Master of the House
has the two obscenities and has shows two character having sex. One of them being Santa! It also features characters drinking, but not is positive light. There is also (Spoiler) a scene where Fantine submits herself to prostitution. Although there is no nudity in the movie, the scene is very disturbing. It is not graphic or profane, just 3 short thrusts shown from the shoulder up. But the emotional weight is very adult and would not be appropriate for younger audiences.
Conclusion: If I were to rate the transition from stage to screen I might drop a star for some changes that I’ll highlight in a later posting, but as a standalone film it was a wonderful experience. There are themes of redemption, mercy, courage, comradeship, duty, fatherhood, and love unrequited. Anyone could find a character to associate with. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would make plans to do so this weekend.
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