Title: Les Miserables (2012)
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter
Poverty stricken times call forth films about poverty stricken people and no other film is more suitable for today’s borderline depression era days than Les Miserables, a film that truly explores the sadness and desperation that comes with being less fortunate, actually, to be more accurate it truly wallows in it. But I’m of the mind that even the sadder parts of life have to be explored, life is bitter sweet and to say that life is all peaches and cream simply isn’t true. There’s a lot of sadness out there in the world we live in and it is important we talk about these sad parts of life, it is important that we don’t ignore the darker issues, for how are things to get better if we ignore problems? Les Miserables focuses in on one of the saddest elements of society: extreme poverty.
On this one we meet Jean Valjean, an ex-con who went to jail for stealing bread. On the particular day we meet Valjean he is set free and tries looking for a regular job, but due to the fact that he’d been in jail, he gets rejected left and right. He soon ends up in a church, screaming at god in anger, asking God why his life so miserable. But then a twist of fate makes Valjean reconsider his life and so he decides to reinvent himself and a few years later, Valjean becomes the owner of a sewing factory. Unbeknownst to him, Fantine, one of his female employees gets fired for no good reason. Unable to care for her little baby child, Fantine ends up on the streets, selling her body in the seediest parts of town. It isn’t long before death comes knocking at Fantines door and Valjean, feeling guilty for her death swears to take care of Fantine’s little baby daughter, Cosette. What happens when Cosette grows up and wants to live her life, apart from Valjean?
Right away, from frame one you know this movie is epic; we see Jean Valjean and hundreds of other prisoners pulling a boat into shore with ropes as they sing, and I just knew this one was going to be special. First thing you notice when you see this film is that the actors are singing for real, the songs aren’t dubbed or pre-recorded, which takes a little getting used to because normally musicals pre-record every song and actors are simply lip-synching as they sing and dance, but not on Les Miserables; here the actors really sing on set, live and this is the way you’ll hear it. I was pretty blown away by Jackman and Hathaway specifically, but really, everybody does a bang up job here. Anne Hathaway sings a song that just might bring you to tears, and win her an Oscar. I’d say maybe Russell Crowe was the only one a little off at times, but even he did a commendable job. So be ready for a musical that feels just a little bit more realistic then others, every breath, every sob between songs is heard, the pain and the feeling in the performances is projected more efficiently because of this technique.
As I watched this version of Les Miserables, I noticed how similar the story is to films like Annie (1982) and Oliver! (1968). All of these films are musicals and all three are about little orphan kids living in poverty. All three films have kids living with horrible step parents who want to take advantage of the child, and in all three films, the child is rescued by a genuinely good person looking to give the child a chance at a better life. But I guess in scope and tone, Les Miserables is closest to Oliver! The only thing that makes Les Miserables a bit different then these other two films is the element of romance, a love triangle that developes and the French revolution! The people of France in Les Miserables are on the verge of rebellion and this theme of the oppressed being sick and tired of being treated like garbage is an important one on this film because the misery of the people is often simply a reflection of what’s going on with its government. Are people just gonna sit back and let their government trample them? Or are they willing to die fighting for their freedom? Interesting themes no doubt. I found the character of Javert, the policeman following Valjean interesting. He is torn between serving the government and doing what his human side is telling him is right. This character has an interesting duality there.
The Oscar nominations are in and both Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway have been nominated for their work on this film, which isn’t really a surprise. Les Miserables has also been nominated for Film of the Year, so this lets you know there is something special about this film. Plus with a cast like this one, wow, who wants to miss this show? Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonhan Carter who worked together previously in Tim Burton’s Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) reunite here with great comical effect, playing the evil step parents of poor little Collette. But screw the Oscars, The Film Connoisseur is telling you this one is awesome, a cinematic experience of the highest caliber; a film that will move you to tears. Not to be missed!
Rating: 5 out of 5