A Miserable movie? Far from it, it’s based on the musical by Cameron Mackintosh, the same acclaimed musical that’s been running worldwide since 1980. That musical is in turn based on the French novel of the same name by Victor Hugo.
It is the story of Jean Valjean, a relatively ‘innocent’ prisoner turn thief turn mayor turn fugitive, weirdly in that order. He faces his lifelong archrival police Inspector Javert who wishes to bring him to justice, in his eyes. He fathered a child, the daughter of a whore which he had no relations with. All this with the backdrop of the politically tumultuous France in the first half of the 19th century. Jean Valjeans’s story culminates with the Paris Uprising of 1832, a Republican rebellion which comprised primarily of young students.
Coming from a family of musical aficionados, I am by default a LesMis fan. I have caught the stage production once in New York while the soundtracks are staple in my playlists. I join the legion of bright eyed LesMis devotees waiting for this very movie. And so my review will be from the perspective of a fan. First and foremost, I must state that this movie doesn’t disappoint.
Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean surpasses all expectations and delivers a soulful, grimy and tense portrayal of a broken man, despite Hugh’s relative youngness. On the other end of the scale, Russell Crowe’s Javert leaves me wanting. He has the look, he has the charisma of the formidable inspector, but he doesn’t have the voice to suit. Vocal duels with Valjean always results with Valjean winning.
While the rest of the characters did what was expected of them, one small part stood out, thanks to Anne Hathaway. She played Fantine, Jean Valjean’s adopted girl’s mother. Fantine is the character who delivers the well-known ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ hit song. Ordinarily in the play, this song comes before ‘Lovely Ladies’ which was the time she entered into the circle of prostitution. The producers must have switched the sequence, ‘I dream a dream’ comes after that and now takes on an added innuendos. Anne pounced on that opportunity, so watch out for a version unlike any other that brought this writer to tears, so early on too.
For those who may not know, this musical is sung through. This means that about 99% of all dialogue is sung. The beauty of Les Miserables is that they have many songs that stick in your head. Each melody elicits a certain emotion or context and are continually resung by different characters at different scenes throughout the musical.
Les Miserables is arguably the best musical of all time, in my opinion. This more-than-good-enough movie musical satiates my need to relive those memories of the stage production, which due to my non-strategic geographic location, prevents me from watching again. And for all the musical haters, an outing to Les Miserables is an excellent boot-camp, so to speak. I don’t give this easily, but this deserves a 10/10.