philosophy at age eight

“If you cannot control your peanut butter, you cannot expect to control your life.”
~ Judah-ism

Saturday, January 5, 2013

les miserables (film critique)

Les Miserables 
(Movie based on novel by Victor Hugo and Broadway play by Boublil & Schönberg)
Director:  Tom Hooper
Starring:  Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne and Daniel Huttlestone

As background for me, so you know where I'm coming from, I grew up from pre-teen listening to the Les Miserables (Original Recording) soundtrack on our old record player. One of my most vivid memories as a child is sitting in a dark living room one evening with my siblings, listening to this record.  It was a snowy night in Seattle, and we had turned all the lights off so we could stare out through our over-sized front window at the streetlamp illuminating the snow flurries as they came down. I'm sure you all have those moments where you are so happy, and so moved, that the memory stays with you forever.  That's what Les Miserables represents to me.

When I was about 15, I saw the Broadway play when it came to Seattle at 5th Avenue, and it's still like a dream to me. I saw the play again when it came back around last year, but the set and ensemble were all different and I found myself slightly disappointed. However... not so with the new movie, starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.

Hugh Jackman starved himself for the
prison scenes as Jean Valjean -- he was
barely recognizable.
Russell Crowe's Javert had a hard
time keeping up with the strong
voices around him, unfortunately
Valjean discovers Fauntine

I was ready to be extremely cynical, given the complete let-down that the previous movie starring Claire Danes had been. But there was no need. It was moving and heartbreaking. It didn't betray my childhood memories, but instead gave me something else to hold on to. Something I can watch up-close and personal, unlike the Broadway play (where yes, I was always up in the balcony). It wouldn't have worked the same way if they hadn't filmed all the songs live -- nothing pre-recorded. You simply cannot walk out of that experience unmoved.

Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen
(who isn't much of a singer) as the Thénardiers
Cosette (all grown up) and Marius
Eponine and Gavroche
Little known fact: did you know that in the novel,
Gavroche is actually Eponine's little brother?

The movie was absolutely brilliant. Bravo, everyone! You've given me something to hold onto until the Broadway musical decides to come back through Seattle, and I love you for it!

Of course, it wasn't perfect and I had a few nit-picks (like a couple missing songs), but it's not even worth going into. The movie allowed me to really understand what was going on in the barricade, and visualize it in a way that the play wasn't able to facilitate. Also, Cosette and Marius, historically my least favorite characters by far, were actually moving and real to me. Eddie Redmayne's (Marius) rendition of "Empty Chairs" was the most powerful I've ever heard.

Not that I can believe that anyone could possibly need one, but just in case, here's a plot summary, found here:
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, "Les Misérables" (translated most accurately as "The Miserable Ones") tells the tale of a released prisoner named Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. Given his new-found freedom, he violates his parole. His life is changed forever through the generosity and grace shown to him by a priest; as he learns he must redeem himself in the eyes of God. Despite becoming a respectable mayor, he is chased by Javert, a police inspector who believes solely in atonement through the Law. The law leads to frustration and death, but grace leads to a life of selflessness and hope. This game of cat vs. mouse is the spine to the epic story of Les Misérables, as Valjean encounters many impoverished characters who help him seek redemption for his sins along the way.

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