So for New Year's Eve my husband I decided to go to the movies, and we wanted a "big" movie for a night like New Year's so we picked Les Misérables, the latest film adaptation of the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo and 1980 musical based on the novel. We picked right, because this movie is an epic and a contemporary classic.
I had seen the musical once a long time ago but I was more or less unfamiliar with the story past the basic premise. The story unfolds across the bloody tableau of 19th century France with all of its political and social upheaval. Jean Valjean is a criminal who had been sentenced to years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He's released but remains on parole; as a convict, he's a pariah and cannot support himself. After stealing some silver from a church, he decides to break parole and change his life. Years later he's a mayor and respected businessman who through a series of circumstances becomes foster father to a young girl, Cosette. Years pass. More stuff happens. But shadowing Valjean throughout his life is Inspector Javert, a rigid and righteous officer of the law who promises to hunt Valjean to his grave.
The novel is considered to be one of the best ever written; the musical has been hugely popular and an iconic theatrical spectacle. And the movie is just amazing. First of all, the actors all sing their parts. Hugh Jackman is a Tony award winner so we expect him to be excellent, and he is. Anne Hathaway as the doomed Fantine and Russell Crowe as Javert are incredible. Hathaway in particular will break your heart. Samantha Barks as Eponine was wonderful, too, probably the breakout star of the movie. I read on IMDB that she won the roll over Taylor Swift! I can't imagine sugary Taylor as Eponine but Barks is just great.
And the film, which is sung virtually throughout, is completely engrossing. There are no titles until the end of the film so when it starts, it really starts, and draws you right in. Jackman is unrecognizable for his first few minutes on screen and his transformations are fun to watch. The story travels through the revolutions and protests of Paris as well as its streets and houses and social classes. The movie shortens and simplifies lots of aspects of the book- but at over two and a half hours long, it's still got plenty of story and character to keep you going. Sometimes it felt like each character got about 10 minutes of screen time before his or her untimely death, but that's only because time flies when you're having fun, and Les Misérables, for all is unhappiness, is one of the best times I've had at the movies in a long time. Highly, highly recommended for adults and teens, make some time for it before it leaves theaters. It's worth seeing on the big screen!