Les Misrables

A review of the 2013 film.

First of all, I must say that musicals have always been a favourite form of entertainment of mine, so this review is  subjective, not completely impartial.

Likewise much of the music and songs in Les Mis. have been also been favourites of mine for many years, even though I’ve never seen the stage show and only recently saw the film for the first time. I should also mention that I have never read Victor Hugo’s historical novel on which the film is based, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the story.

Even if you know of no other song from the show, I think you will have heard I Dreamed A Dream, which made Susan Boyle famous on Britain’s Got Talent and was sung in the film by Anne Hathaway as Fantine, for which she the 2013 Oscar for Best Actress.

It was a long film, more than 2 1/2 hours but, realistically, it probably could not have been any shorter and still have done justice to the story it told. The main storyline is of Jean Valjean, a prisoner released after serving his time who had originally ben jailed for stealing a loaf of bread because his family was starving, and how he makes good after his initial release from prison. There are a number of twists and turns in this main storyline, which I will not relate here so as not to spoil it for anyone who has not seen it. Suffice it to say that the story does not always go in the anticipated direction.

The film will, in some people, raise a few emotions and there might be a few tears too, such is the power of the story and the fine performances by the other lead actors, having already mentioned Anne Hathaway. Hugh Jackman, also Oscar nominated as Valjean and Russell Crow, not Oscar nominated but, in my opinion, should have been for his portrayal of the policeman Javert, a role that could easily have descended into one of obsessive revenge. Crow raised it above that to a man for whom his duty is his life, it means everything to him. And yet, Crow manages to create one of the most poignant moments of the film, when he pins his own medal on the body of a rebel boy, Gavroche, killed at the barricades.

For many people, such a story is perhaps not the stuff of musicals and yet it is a compelling tale, brilliantly and evocatively told and the music, for me at least, adds feeling and intensity. Some of the songs were incredibly rousing and especially the great choral refrain at the barricades make you want to join in, but don’t please unless you’re watching a DVD in the privacy of your own home. 

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”  – Jean Valjean.



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