Friday, January 4, 2013

Theater Review: Les Misérables

It is not very often that a movie can get an emotional reaction from me. In fact, since I hit my 'older' days I don't think it has happened to me many times at all.

But, that is exactly what Les Misérables did to me on my date night with my wife - and subjected me to ridicule for the rest of the night (and most of the next day as well).

This film did not jump out at me at all with previews or announcements - not one time. But, my wife is a fan of it and really was excited to see it. So, we went.

I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I guess my wife picked up on that very early on when I asked my first question, "Is this entire movie singing?" Now, in my defense I have seen many musicals in my day where the songs are dominant, but there is also still dialogue throughout the film. Not here - there was, at most, five lines of dialogue throughout the entire movie.

It was there that I began to get nervous.

But, my nervousness quickly subsided as I began to get more and more interested in the story. I soon realized that the lack of dialogue wasn't bothering me in the slightest - in fact, I hardly noticed anymore.

The film itself is pretty much about the life and trials of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). We first meet Valjean on the final day of his 19-year prison sentence. He was sent to prison for stealing bread for his sister's dying child - and later more years were added to his sentence for trying to escape.

Javert (Russell Crowe) is a prison guard, who only refers to Valjean by his prison number. Valjean is released on parole and is ordered to return every so often to check in. Not able to find work due to being a criminal - he is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson). Despite the Bishop's generosity, Valjean steals silver from the church - but he is caught and brought back. Bishop takes pity on him and alerts the police that he had in fact given the silver to him. And, Valjean changes his ways - becoming a solid citizen, but breaking his parole in the process.

Now the mayor and a factory owner in Montreuil, Valjean is nearly discovered by Javert - who has been tracking him down for years. A skirmish in the factory gets a worker, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) fired. She is sending all of her money to a pair of Innkeepers who are taking care of her daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen). Not being able to make an honest living, Fantine turns to do anything and everything she can to make money for her daughter.

Found by Javert and nearly arrested, Valjean recognizes her and takes her to the hospital. He feels responsible for her condition and vows to take care of her daughter for as long as he possibly can.

The Innkeepers Tenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) have been playing Fantine from the start - asking for more money claiming Cosette was sick. Instead, Cosette is treated like garbage, while their daughter Eponine (Natalya Angel Wallace) is treated like a princess.

Valjean, though, pays off the Tenardiers and takes Cosette into his care - but always keeping an eye behind him for Javert.

Years later, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) becomes the object of Marius' (Eddie Redmayne) affection despite the fact that Eponine (Samantha Barks) is in love with him. Marius is part of the revolution against the government with his friend Enjolras (Aaron Tveit).

Now an old man, Valjean realizes that he can not look after Cosette forever and believes that Marius may be the perfect person to take over. So, he joins the revolution if only to look after Marius to make sure he does not die.

This movie was remarkable. The music was amazing - though I only truly loved a few of the songs, the rest were still very nice. Having the cast sing live on camera (instead of in a studio) was also a nice touch - it really brought out the emotions of the song and the story.

It also had some great laughs thanks to the Tenardiers. I had no idea that Sacha Baron Cohen was in this movie - but immediately picked him out, despite it not really looking like him. The pair added some much needed lightheartedness to an otherwise bleak film.

Finally the story, which mixed with the songs finally hit me at the conclusion of the film. Yes, Les Misérables struck a chord with me - something that very rarely happens. And, I thank my wife for taking me to see it. A beautifully shot and acted film all around.


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