Joel’s review of Les Misérables (2012)

My wife is a huge fan of the musical Les Misérables. I watched it once on Broadway back in the late 90’s and I didn’t find it memorable or altogether interesting. I know, I know, it’s heresy. There was a film version that came out back in 2012, and Nums borrowed it from the library last week for us to watch.

The film stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway has Fantine, and Amanda Seyfried as older Cosette. [Side note: Amanda Seyfried in a serious role? Good for her!] You’ve also got Eddie Redmayne as a guy named Marius, Sacha Baron Cohen (!) and Helena Bonham Carter.

Do you know the story? I barely remembered it, so I’ll recap it. The film is set in a post-revolutionary period in France. We’re introduced to Jean Valjean, known as Prisoner 24601, who is released from prison to start a new life, but it isn’t a new life. Due to his  criminal past (of stealing a loaf of bread), he’s unable to find work or lodging or food. He ultimately decides to break parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. Valjean becomes mayor of a town, but he’s worried about getting recognized, because Javert keeps popping up everywhere.

We’re also introduced to Fantine, a poor young woman who hits some bad luck, ends up on the street, and unfortunately becomes a prostitute. At this point, with the kids watching with us, we had to skip ahead to the next chapter. While the story is interesting, it’s not quite appropriate for children. Valjean finds and adopts eventually Fantine’s daughter Cosette. They run off, and years pass.

After fast-forwarding, the June Rebellion is starting up, and a number of peasants are planning for a big show to demonstrate their unhappiness with the current economy and their difficulties to survive while the rich enjoy their lives. It all comes together as Cosette gets involved with one of the leaders of the rebellion. Meanwhile, Javert keeps finding Valjean.

I have to admit, even with this 2nd go around, I still wasn’t particularly moved by the story. It has its moments, but maybe I’m dead inside. Maybe it was all the singing, and there’s a lot. Maybe I found it a little over-dramatic at times. I don’t know. I feel bad, because my wife definitely feels like it’s an amazing story. The songs are good, though. I’ll give her that.

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