If you see any movie in your life, see “Les Misérables.” The film takes place in France as it follows the life of Jean Valjean, a former convict who was put in prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family.
After breaking parole, Valjean makes a new life for himself and vows to help everyone he can. While on the run from the vengeful Inspector Javert, Valjean meets the suffering Fantine and her daughter, Cosette. As the story continues, the people of France are in the midst of an uprising because they are poor and starving in the streets, and Valjean’s story crosses paths with young revolutionaries.
Tom Hooper, the director of the Oscar-winning movie “The King’s Speech,” has flawlessly brought this classic stage musical to the screen. All of the songs were sung live on the set, which made the experience much more realistic.
There was not a weak link in the cast. Hugh Jackman as Valjean was perfection. Most people only associate Jackman with his role as Wolverine; however, he worked on Broadway at the beginning of his career. The training shows as Jackman portrays a wide range of emotions while singing classic and challenging songs such as “Bring Him Home” and “One Day More.” Anne Hathaway is breathtaking as Fantine, the suffering beauty turned prostitute whose sole concern is the well-being of her daughter, and her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” brought tears to the audience’s eyes. With brilliant direction, Hooper has the camera remain steady on Hathaway throughout arguably the most well-known song in the musical, giving her the ability to portray the range of emotions that are key throughout the song. Russell Crowe was surprising as Inspector Javert. I was very happy that he was able to keep up vocally with the likes of Jackman and Hathaway.
The inclusion of Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as her lover Marius was spot-on. Redmayne was an excellent choice for Marius, one of the leaders in the mini-revolution, and sang each song with depth and emotion. Another shining moment in the movie was the performances by Samantha Barks, who played Eponine, Marius’ lower-class friend who wishes that she were in Cosette’s place. Barks’ renditions of “On My Own” and “Little Fall of Rain” were the best I have ever heard. Fantastic and hilarious performances were also made by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the conniving Thenardier family.
It is hard to compare the stage show to the movie, but I believe that the film version is better than the stage simply because of the sets. It is clear that the sets were created from the descriptions given in Victor Hugo’s original tome from which the musical is based on. The barricade could be built right in front of the audience in the film, while in the stage production an already-formed barricade was wheeled out. These little details made the entire experience more mesmerizing and extraordinary. Also included in the movie was a spellbinding new song, “Suddenly,” which was cut in the stage production.
Hooper’s brilliance mixed with the talent of the cast created a true work of art. Already, “Les Misérables” is nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture, and I am so happy that such a wonderful masterpiece can be translated onto the screen for generations to come.
Emily DeRoo is a senior at Williamsville North High School.