After deciding against an Olive Garden dinner, we settled for theater hot dogs in order to see “Les Miserables” last night. It was totally worth it; we were extremely impressed…
Director Tom Hooper achieves perfection with “Les Miserables” by having the actors singing live during the scenes. This makes all the difference in the world! Hooper has set the high bar for movie musicals in the future. Anne Hathaway gives a stunning performance singing “I dreamed a dream.” Holy cow, holy cow, holy cow! It would be worth seeing again just for those extraordinary minutes.
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is set in Paris after the French Revolution. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), prisoner 24601, is released from prison in 1818 after serving nineteen grueling years for stealing bread. Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) hands Valjean his papers but informs him that he will be on parole for years and under constant surveillance, because once a thief always a thief. But, after no one gives him work or food, he steals from a kind bishop, who forgives him. Valjean changes his ways, breaks parole, and becomes master of a factory and mayor of a town by 1823.
Fantine (Hathaway) works at the factory so she can send money to a couple keeping her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. However, she is disliked by the other women and is dismissed from the factory by a shunned manager. On the streets, she sells her hair, teeth, and body to survive and tries to continue sending money for Cosette, who she believes to be ill. Valjean rescues the unfortunate Fantine, but he is too late. However, he vows to find Cosette and take care of her.
Shysters, thieves, and owners of a shady inn, Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Madame Thenardier (Helen Bonham Carter), maltreat Cosette, while their own daughter, Eponine, is clean and well-dressed. The Thenardiers reluctantly sell Cosette to Valjean after being unable to rob him of all his possessions.
Nine years later, 1832, rebellion is in the Parisian air. Cosette (Amana Seyfried) has grown into a beauty while living in seclusion with Valjean, who continues to be wary of a vigilant Javert. On a rare outing with her father, Cosette is seen by one of the rebels, Marius (Eddie Redmayne), and instant love occurs. Marius, although rich, is living in squalor as a sacrifice for the cause, cut off from his wealthy uncle. Eponine (Samantha Barks) is in love with him, but he hardly notices her, even before seeing Cosette. The Thenardiers no longer have the inn and are running scams in the slums.
The rebels barricade themselves against the French army, some die, most abandon the cause, and there is a final confrontation between Javert and Valjean. Marius is shot, rescued by Valjean, returns to the good graces of his uncle, and marries Cosette. The aging Thenardiers finally receive their just desserts.
Although set in France, no French accents are attempted, which was okay with one exception. Daniel Huttlestone, as the youngest rebel Gavroche, sings with a blatant and distracting Cockney accent that would have been more appropriate in “Oliver.” Despite the orchestra occasionally overtaking the choruses, this remarkable film far surpasses the stage production I saw in Chicago years ago.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.