Les Misérables was one of the best movies that I have ever seen… and quite possibly THE best movie that I’ve ever seen.
It’s difficult for me to write much more than that, but I promise that I will try to write something coherent in hopes so that I can convince you to go see it too. I really do hope you go see it. And bring all of your friends and family with you. Because this is a movie that deserves to be seen by everyone. It is truly a masterpiece.
I cried in this movie. I cried a lot. Let me be clear: do not wear mascara and bring lots of tissues. From the very first note and grand, sweeping shot I felt myself choking up because I was assured on how wonderful they were going to make this movie. My favorite songs made me cry of course, but it was after the final, solid shot of movie that I couldn’t stop crying. The beauty of Les Mis is there’s such a wonderful understanding of people and pain, but the music and the notes and the words create such a profound tug at your soul. There’s something sad, but also comforting about the story. Set hundreds of years ago, we somehow still feel that same pain. I was softly weeping, embarrassingly so, though I must say the man in front of me was audibly sobbing. The other people in the theater weren’t doing much better either. There was a lot of clapping in those final credits, but also a lot of nose blowing and otherwise, silence. We had all been swept up for three hours, taken away completely from our lives and had entered another world, our minds had been silenced. After a few moments, I hurried through the lobby, avoiding eye contact because I couldn’t stop crying and trying to wipe the tears off of my damp scarf.
I know that Les Miserables is a musical and many people just don’t like musicals, I understand that. If you honestly just do not appreciate musicals (I understand, I don’t appreciate football or wine), don’t bother going. You’re wasting your time and everyone else around you. But if you like good movies, if you appreciate mind blowing music and stellar acting then I encourage you to see this movie. But if I’m going to be honest, Les Mis is ALL singing. They incorporate dialogue smoothly, but each song is intertwined with the next with the most beautiful cinematography that I’ve ever seen and music that you almost forget that, for a moment, there wasn’t singing. Grand would be the best word I could describe Les Miserables. There’s nothing subdued about it, which I feel is really the only way to go about making this play into a movie. Plays have such limitations, and no matter how wonderful the music or profound the words are, you’re still highly aware that you are watching people act on a stage before you. This movie felt nothing of the sort. I wasn’t sitting in a theater with 100 other people, I was there, and I was part of everything.
Hugh Jackman played Jean Valjean with such steadfast courage that I completely erased whatever previous ideals I had of who Jean Valjean was. For me, this character was entirely fresh, tender and robust. By way of Jackman’s approach, I somehow understood Valjean better than ever before and saw his sadness in an entirely different way. Also, he looked a bit like Adrien Brody in this movie… which doesn’t hurt him in my opinion.
That being said, I think Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar for creating the most heart-wrenching performance, not only of this movie, but of any movie that I’ve ever seen. “I Dreamed a Dream” is such a vulnerable and desperate song and she not only sang it well, but her performance was raw and personal, such a revealing insight into a person that we rarely, if ever, see. I’ve heard so many people say that Anne Hathaway always plays Anne Hathaway, and I might’ve been one of them until I saw her performances in movies like Rachel Getting Married or The Dark Knight Rises. Regardless of what I think, anyone who sees her performance in Les Mis will without a doubt change their minds of any preconceived notions of her and hopefully, hand over all the awards to her now. I’ve never seen such a deserving performance.
Russell Crowe did an amazing job as Javert. I’ve heard other people say differently and I have to say that I disagree entirely. It’s a hard task to take on the villain role but still show a softness to him and even reveal a reason for his steadfast hate and desire for revenge. In his eyes, Javert thought that his reasoning was entirely righteous and I found that Crowe explored this in exactly the right way, evoking a pity for his naïve madness.
Not knowing much about the movie beforehand, I was surprised but enchanted with the casting of Helena Bohnam Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. “Master of the House” was always my favorite song because it showed an incredible lightness and humor in the middle of a story that’s in many ways wretched with sadness and poverty. These actors created an incredible pair, taking such a gritty avant-garde approach to the portrayal of the fool and rekindled my love, once again, for the song.
Eponine was never my favorite character, but I suppose in many ways I never understood her until now. I was young when I saw the play, and not much older when I saw the mini series. I’d never been in love or even felt an inkling of her sadness. Of course by now, I’ve felt her sadness many times over and I know very well what it’s like to love someone that doesn’t love you. So imagine my surprise when I saw this beautiful, unknown girl pouring her heart out in “Own My Own”, a song that perfectly encompasses all I’ve ever known about love. Let’s just say that my waterworks were turned up another notch. Samantha Barks created such an incredible performance, one that burns in the hearts of every person that’s ever felt unrequited love. I can’t wait to see more of her in the future.
Young Cosette was executed perfectly by Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried played Cosette with fragile sweetness, but her small role felt right. Aaron Tviet, a somewhat unknown actor, created a wonderful performance as Enjoiras. He’s another person that I can’t wait to see more from. The only actor that I felt confused by was Eddie Redmayne. His performance was at such a lower talent level than everyone else in the cast (and which such an strange vibrato) that I couldn’t help by wonder why he was chosen.
Tom Hooper has proven himself to be one of the best, if not THE best, directors of our time. The King’s Speech is one of my favorite movies, but I have to say that Les Miserables tops it. He somehow managed to keep the integrity of the play and novel and composed a beautiful, heart-wrenching film.