Les Misérables Movie Review

Last night I attended a press screening for the movie version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, due out in theaters on Christmas day. A huge fan of the musical (although admittedly, I have not read the book) I wasn’t sure how well it was going to translate to the big screen, but I had high hopes. For me to trek into the city on a weeknight in December, you know it had to be something good.

When the movie started, we were immediately transported into 19th-century France with hero, Jean Valjean, being released by his nemesis, Javert, after 19-years of imprisonment due to stealing a loaf of bread. The storyline followed the musical productions fairly accurately, and while it was long, it moved quickly most of the time.

Directed by The King’s Speech’s Academy Award-winning director, Tom Hooper, I was blown away by the cinematography. Some scenes were close-up and intimate, while others were grand and sweeping, but while the movie has received some criticism for this supposed contradiction, I found it intriguing and enjoyed the variety.

Hugh Jackman did a fabulous job in his role as Jean Valjean, and Anne Hathaway stole the show when she sang I Dreamed A Dream. Russel Crowe wasn’t quite up to par with the others when it came to his singing, but he definitely captured the character of Javert with his signature intensity. A surprise standout to me was Eddie Redmayne in his portrayal of Marius. He was incredibly convincing both as an actor as well as a singer, and I hope he wins some awards for his performance.

Overall, the music was phenomenal. The singing had some high points and some lower points, but when I learned that every take was sung live, I forgave them for some of their less than stellar vocal moments. I particularly enjoyed it when they overlaid 3 and 4 vocal parts; that was really cool.

Given that this was a Hollywood production, I found it fascinating how openly they dealt with the issues of faith and redemption and law vs. grace. I realize that these are the themes of the story, but I felt like it was handled surprisingly well.

However, there were parts that I found unsettling. Some of the scenes were disturbingly graphic, particularly the one surrounding Fantine and her fall into prostitution. There is something to be said for leaving some things up to the imagination, and that is where this storyline works better for stage than than the big screen. I would certainly not recommend this move for anyone younger than . . . I dunno, 18? I’m pretty conservative, but those images are pretty vividly ingrained in my mind at this point and I would not want them ingrained in my child’s. Just sayin’.

One other item of note for those with delicate sensibilities: there were scenes after the French Rebellion that were eerily reminiscent of recent current events which evoked a whole other well of emotions that I wasn’t counting on.

That said, I found the movie riveting and would definitely see it again — if only for the musical performances. No, they weren’t quite up to Broadway standards, but they had a raw emotion and intimacy that only the big screen can bring. If you’re a Les Mis fan, I would definitely recommend including this movie in your holiday plans. Just leave the kids at home.

Comments

  1. Alicia D says

    Thanks for the review. My husband and I are huge fans! We’ve seen it in the theatre multiple times, and have the movie and soundtrack. We’re hoping to sneak away on Christmas night to watch it.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Tracy says

    I also saw the movie last night at a screening. I was absolutely blown away at Anne Hathaway’s performance. Hugh Jackman also did an amazing job, though some of the songs were a bit high for him. I was a little disappointed with Russel Crowe as well, thinking that somehow he could have been a little more intense in his hatred of Jean ValJean. And I hate to say it, but I was not so much a fan of Amanda Seyfried’s voice–pretty, but a bit too shaky. I’m pretty conservative as well, but I would be okay with a teenager seeing this movie. I have two teenagers myself, and trust me, the things they hear and see at school are much worse than this movie. I guess it just depends on the level of maturity of your teen. Overall I loved the movie, though as you pointed out, it was not up to Broadway standards, but I will definitely see it again.

    • says

      I think I am ultra sensitive about those types of scenes. Even as an adult, I get bothered by graphic images. As far as kids seeing it… I shudder to think of the things they will see when they get older. My oldest is 13 and no way will I bring him to this. Which is a shame b/c he loves the musical. I may feel differently in a few years, though.

      I agree about Amanda Seyfried, she didn’t do a whole lot for me, and those really REALLY high notes kinda hurt, lol.

  3. Happysuz says

    Thanks for the review. I can’t wait to see it! I find it interesting about casting Russle Crowe if his singing isn’t stellar. The high school where I am an Artistic Director and Choreographer has done the show twice and both times we cast the better singer as Javert. I don’t know why movies have to get so graphic, an artistic interpretation is often better.

  4. Ann says

    Victor Hugo left it all in one’s imagination. Only suggestion was given as to the destitution of Fantine. I suppose this is more easily done in a book, but surely such a creative director could have managed to put the thought across without being graphic. These topics were dealt with in the past and were understood by the audience.
    Still, I look forward to seeing the movie. Maybe the problem lies with us?

    • says

      yes, it could have been handled much more “creatively” but this was done in a way that you had to face the ugly truth of her desperation. and I suppose… maybe I need to see past my happy, peaceful little world. but then again, maybe I don’t.

      there were other scenes too – dead boys lying in a row after the French revolution… it was a lot to absorb.

  5. says

    Thanks for this, Jo-Lynne. I would have definitely let my 14-year-old see it, and now I’m going to have to re-think that. She’s mature, so maybe we’ll have a talk about it ahead of time, but I’m not sure how we’ll handle it. Thanks for this great review!

  6. says

    Thanks for the review and perspective. I think that each of us has a different barometer for what we are sensitive to- which is what gives each of our unique perspective. I am still going to bring my daughter I think, though I might show her some of the trailers and talk to her about it first and gauge her thinking about it.

  7. says

    Like you, I love the musical, but haven’t read the book. I can’t wait to see the movie. I have heard great things. I am sure I will agree with your feelings about some of the sensitive images. I tell my kids that once something is in your brain, you can never, ever get it out. I have become much more careful about what I allow into my own brain, and I try so hard to help my kids protect theirs as well!

  8. Susan says

    Bleh…I hated it ! I mean, I can truly appreciate the amazing the singing, acting and cinematography. I have never read the book, but I did see the actual movie a few years ago. I was expecting some acting and then singing, acting/talking and then more singing. My brain just could not stand THREE HOURS of singing. And it was sooo dark. And soooo graphic. I wish I would’ve read your review better before taking my 13 year old. I mean, I’m ok with her seeing some things but not sure I was ready for her to see the prostitute hangout and some chick giving Santa some jolly time !

    • says

      I too wish they had interspersed more talking. It was definitely too much singing. And yes, way too graphic. I still enjoyed it. But yeah… the prostitute hangout was what did me in. I would never take a child to that. UGH. Sorry you didn’t know….

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