Monday, January 14, 2013

Les Miserables (12A)

"Beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?"
Based on a novel by Victor Hugo
Directed by Tom Hooper 
Score by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil
On general release from 11th January 2013

Okay, I'm reviewing this having already seen it twice, because once wasn't good enough. I've also read the novel three times, seen the musical, got the DVD of the musical, and heard its soundtrack on umpteen occasions. I'm quite the fan. And why? Because it has struggle, philosophy, all the different kinds of love, and barricades...what more does a story need?

It's impossible to describe all the plots and subplots here, but this epic tale is centred on the life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who is just finishing two decades inside for stealing bread when first we meet him. Several years later, having got religious and got rich, he is a town mayor and owner of a small factory. There he employs Fantine (Anne Hathaway), but when it is revealed that she has a secret child, the foreman dismisses her.

"The tigers come at night" for Fantine (Hathaway)
When Fantine dies of consumption shortly afterwards, Valjean vows to take care of her daughter (Isabelle Allen, later Amanda Seyfried). Through the years, Valjean and his charge are relentlessly pursued by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), because the former broke the terms of his parole. All the characters meet their fate on those barricades, as a group of young idealists attempt to overturn all the economic and political injustice with an insurrection.

There are necessarily some huge differences of emphasis between the stage and film versions. The singing quality isn't quite there - particularly from Crowe - but of course it's far more about acting, and the turmoil of competing emotions and thoughts within each character. Hooper demonstrated he was particularly adept at capturing this in The King's Speech - indeed it was this aspect which made the thing bearable. Here this capacity is brought out in far more intriguing characters, and in the service of an infinitely more worthy narrative.

Unless you're rich enough to be well above the fray, you are likely to find yourself identifying with at least one of the protagonists. From that point onwards it is an emotional whirlwind, which concludes by celebrating all that is best within each of us, and sending its audience out with a profound hope for the possibility of a better world. Now isn't that better than the embarrassment of an aristocrat?
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