“Les Misérables,” the worldwide musical sensation based on Victor Hugo’s epic 19th-century novel, has made its way to the big-screen once again.
The film tells the multi-decade tale of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), the long-suffering parolee who, after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his starving sister’s son, makes a new life for himself only to be haunted by the pursuit of the relentless Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Angry and bitter, Valjean’s life is radically transformed when a bishop (veteran Les Mis actor Colm Wilkinson) shows him grace. It is this loving act of kindness that transforms Valjean forever and he spends the rest of his life showing grace to others.
Along his path, Valjean meets the doomed prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway). After realizing he has contributed to her misfortune, Valjean vows to look after her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen) as if she were his own, rescuing her from a pair of crooked, albeit comedic, innkeepers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen). Valjean raises Cosette as his own until she falls in love with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a young nobleman-turned-revolutionary.
So much of the film rests on Jackman’s performance, and he delivers easily. His singing, powerful and natural, he gives the performance of a lifetime that drives the entire movie. But one can’t forget Hathaway. While her time onscreen is short, her fall from grace to a prostitute mother who sells her hair, teeth and body to save her child is unbelievable. In Fantine’s death scene she blows you away, providing some of the film’s most moving and emotionally wrenching moments in a role that will likely bring her the second Oscar nomination of her career.
Needless to say director Tom Hooper (“Elizabeth I” and “The King’s Speech“) has outdone himself with this one. Production, with its entwined stories of revolution, romance and redemption, topples in at a whopping $61 million adaption. From start to finish, Hooper makes sure to get the most bang for his buck — from elaborate costumes to gigantic sets to a star-studded cast — he spares no details as he brings nineteenth century France to life onscreen.
Hooper also made the bold decision to have the beloved songbook by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil sung live on set by the actors – as opposed to convention, where songs are pre-recorded in a studio and dubbed in post-production. The difference is startling, as it left actors with the ability to be true masters of the craft; allowing them to act and react with spontaneity.
The Verdict: If you’re still debating whether or not you should see this film, let me doing the thinking for you — go! Not only will this film be nominated in multiple categories come awards season, but it’s truly a remarkable story that will easily best anything else in the theaters right now. Simply a must-see.
Opened: December 25, 2012
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Isabelle Allen, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen