‘Les Miserables’: never has a title been so true

Jan 7 2013 - 9:48am

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Working Title Films
Russell Crowe is Javert in “Les Miserables.”
Working Title Films
Russell Crowe is Javert in “Les Miserables.”

This Christmas, the popular musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel "Les Miserables" was made into a motion picture. The all-star cast consists of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe and many others.

The story begins in France during the years of political unrest following the French Revolution. A ship is being brought into a dry dock where the audience meets Jean Valjean (Jackman) who is serving his 17-year sentence in prison for stealing a single loaf of bread.

Valjean, along with many other inmates, is pulling the ship in while singing "Look Down." Above them, watching, is Inspector Javert (Crowe), who then releases Valjean on parole. From then on you follow the life of Jean Valjean and the many people he comes in contact with.

You also follow the life of Fantine (Hathaway), a woman who is the lowest of the low and is trying to raise money for the care of her daughter Cosette (Seyfried), who is being raised by the innkeeper Thenardier and his wife (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bohnam Carter).

This is probably the saddest yet most beautiful movie of the year. The title itself reflects this; "Les Miserables" means "the miserables" in English. Throughout the movie, the audience is reminded that during this time period, France was a garbage bin of poverty and immorality.

The art direction, along with the music, creates a beautiful mess for you to watch. The actors come with voices to match the scenery and feeling when delivering some fan favorites like "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own," "Castle On a Cloud" and "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables."

There is a reason, though, that this movie is rated PG-13. There are many sexual references. Also, Fantine must turn to prostitution at one point, and almost any scene with the Thenardiers is pretty suggestive. I would recommend, like the rating suggests, that kids under 13 do not watch this film.

Aside from the sexuality, I thought the movie was a magnificent picture of fantastic actors, beautiful music and heartwarming, tear-jerking messages. Though the title suggests that the entire movie is depressing, there are many times throughout where heartwarming messages are brought into the tale. There are stories of love, redemption, forgiveness and inner peace.

The whole movie is almost three hours of song after song, just like the Broadway stage production of "Les Miserables" featuring the music of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. There are a few lines of dialogue if there really are any. This picture is definitely for the music lover, but even those who do not always enjoy musicals may find a sweet message.

If you've seen "Les Miserables" performed by a high school, I wouldn't say that it is bad, but I feel that the high school versions lose some of the meaning and poignancy of the story. Also, for a high school version to be exceptional, the performers must be exceptional along with the scenery and orchestra or sound track. I thought that the movie was more put together then any high school adaptation.

All of the actors were superb, but personally, my favorites were Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe. Hathaway did such a wonderful job at endearing you to Fantine, and it made you sad when you saw her desperate situation. Her singing abilities pleasantly surprised me. Her voice was very clear and strong and carried the pain of her disposition. Crowe's voice was the strongest in my opinion. He brought a strength to his character that made me really enjoy his part.

In the show's finale number, the song lyrics say, "To love another person is to see the face of God." I believe this is the true meaning of the whole movie because almost every character is searching for love, whether it be from God, a child, or just another person. This might also have been the reason the film came out on Christmas Day; to keep the true meaning of Christmas in our hearts.

I believe "Les Miserables" is a golden musical that everyone should see at some point. It was as heart-wrenching as it was heartwarming and it carries with it a beautiful message that everyone can take when leaving the theater. I would suggest that you bring a box of tissues, though. This movie turns on the waterworks, but it is definitely worth it.

Krystal Ruiz is a sophomore at Weber High School. Contact her at kruiz.melody@gmail.com.

 

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