Do you hear the people sing? If you don’t understand that reference, you probably haven’t seen the most recent film adaptation of the beloved musical Les Misérables. This is an absolute shame since, from start to finish, this movie is an emotional, stunning, and harmonious treat.
When the list of Oscar nominations was released a few weeks ago, it came as no surprise to me that this film received a nod for Best Picture. It has an all-star cast, a great director, beautiful music, and excellent costume and set designs. Just like the classic novel written by Victor Hugo, it captures the bleak struggle of society during the French Revolution expertly.
Hugh Jackman portrays the loveable protagonist Jean Valjean. There is no better character to root for, as the hero of this story is a man of incredible strength, who has no hesitation in being fair and just. Jackman delivers these qualities perfectly, creating a blend of gentle compassion and colossal endurance in the face of adversity, all while singing his heart out.
Pitted against Jackman’s protagonist is the strict and devout policeman Javert, played by Russell Crowe. There were mixed reviews about Crowe’s portrayal of Javert, and since I am such a hardcore Les Mis fan, I am somewhat hard to please. However, although I found his vocals were not as strong as the other cast members, I still enjoyed his presence onscreen nonetheless. Crowe brings a softer, more sympathetic side to the antagonist, showing that although he is flawed, he truly believes that what he is doing is right.
Alongside the hero and the anti-hero is a spectacular array of performances from humorous to tragic. Anne Hathaway plays Fantine, who sings one of the musical’s most famous songs, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Fantine is desperate to save her beloved daughter, and is willing to do whatever it takes, inducing a painful struggle that seems just as difficult for the audience to endure as it is for the poor young woman. Aside from her tearjerking performance, there is also a little comic relief found in the slimy innkeeper and his devious wife, expertly delivered by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. Even though they are greedy and corrupt, you can’t help but smile whenever they are onscreen. It must also be mentioned, that perhaps the most exciting face for a nerdy musical fan to see, is the one of Colm Wilkinson, who appears as the kind-hearted bishop and saves a floundering Valjean. Wilkinson played the original Jean Valjean (and made the role famous) on stage many years ago, showing that the success of this theatrical franchise has come full circle. The combination of all of these varied characters contributes to the artistry of the final product, making the film all the more unforgettable.
Although the characters make up a large part of why this movie is incredible, Les Misérables also has a fabulous storyline. Taking place in 19th century France, when discontent was at its boiling point, the audience experiences triumph, grief, good, and evil. There is so much emotional power packed into every scene, it makes it almost impossible to dislike. When the final credits rolled, the audience clapped and cheered as though they were watching a live stage performance. It is a tale for the ages, and if you love music and film, especially when they are combined, I promise that you won’t regret it.