Les Misérables

Les Misérables

Les Misérables movie poster

Taylor Manley, Staff Writer

“Fight, dream, hope, love” are the words that come to mind when describing Les Misérables, a novel, musical and now film that have already established an unparalleled legacy.

Les Misérables began as a book written by Victor Hugo, a French poet and novelist. Later, the novel was adapted into a musical. Finally, it has been made into a movie, directed by Tom Hooper, most recognizable for directing The King’s Speech.

Les Misérables features a talented cast, headed by Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, prisoner 24601, who has recently been released from prison after 19 years. He breaks his parole and is hunted for years by the heartless (Inspector) Javert, portrayed by Russell Crowe.

In the beginning of the film, the audience is immediately introduced to Valjean and Javert’s history and feud. From the moment the film begins, both the acting and the singing are fantastic, although imperfect. However, since all the actors sang live, imperfection is expected. In the case of Les Misérables, the film wouldn’t be the same if the actors had not sung live. The music and lyrics are designed to tell a story and connect the audience with the emotions and experiences of the characters. The passion and the depth in their live singing only contribute to the audience’s emotional response and the ability of the film to tug at the heart strings of viewers.

Jackman and Crowe were both brilliant in their roles. However, the actors playing more minor roles were equally incredible.

In the story of Les Misérables, Marius Pontmercy is considered the romantic lead. In the 2012 film, Eddie Redmayne (known for his roles in Birdsong, The Pillars of the Earth, The Yellow Handkerchief, Hick, etc.) plays Marius. Marius seems to be a very simple character to understand, but he goes much deeper than people give him credit for. Marius rebels against the life he is “supposed” to have and supports a revolution that, deep down, he probably knows cannot succeed. Later, when Redmayne sings Marius’s signature song, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the audience is treated to an excellent example of the story of a war survivor who feels overwhelming guilt for living when all of his friends have died. Redmayne’s rendition of the song was both moving and brilliant. He was also fantastic alongside Amanda Seyfried, the actress in the role of Cosette.

Cosette is the child of Fantine who is taken in by Jean Valjaen when Fantine dies. Throughout the film, Cosette is the beacon of hope, light and love. She has lived her whole life in confusion. She and Jean Valjean are always on the run from Javert, although she does not know who they are running from or why. Then, she sees Marius and her whole life changes. From the moment their eyes meet, the couple is in love. Even when Marius goes to fight in the French Revolution, and Jean Valjean nearly attempts to keep them apart, they still manage to be together in the end of the film. Seyfried did an incredible job at playing the role of Cosette and exhibiting her character’s love and innocence. Seyfried was also terrific when she sang, though nearly all her notes were the kind only dogs could hear.

Then comes another one of the most talented singers in the film: Aaron Tveit. Tveit is best known for his roles in Gossip Girl and roles in Broadway productions, including Fiyero in Wicked and Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me if You Can. In Les Misérables, Tveit plays Enjolras, a student revolutionary. Tveit has the handsome face and the powerful voice needed for any actor that wishes to play Enjolras. Enjolras is a dedicated, strong character and Tveit was perfect in the role.

Although Les Misérables does have flaws, all films do. For example, in a couple scenes, Jackman sang poorly. Also, transitions between scenes weren’t always as smooth as they could have been. People ought to recall that Les Misérables is not for everyone. It only makes sense that if someone does not like musicals or the play, that person is not going to enjoy the film.

Obviously, Les Misérables is a successful film and the cast and crew walked away from the 85th Academy Awards with three Oscars. These included Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and, of course, Anne Hathaway won Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Although Hathaway offered a very impressive portrayal of Fantine, Fantine is a very minor character. Hathaway basically won an award for singing a song.

Overall, however, Les Misérables is a well-acted, emotionally stirring film that proves to be a testament to love, hope, faith and human spirit.