The story follows Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman), beginning as a French prisoner in 1815 forced into laborious work for a minor offence.
Directed by Tom Hooper.
Yesterday, my introduction to the world of musicals came in the form of Les Misérables. An introduction which will later follow, I'm sure, with my viewing of many more musicals. With a film about ballet in 2012: the Black Swan and Les Misérables, an adaptation of the musical shown in theatres; I heartily welcome the cinematic peephole into theatre and culture for those who cannot afford to see a west-end show.
This peephole has kindled my enjoyment (I will not say love, for I do prefer plays) for musicals, as I have not been offered many opportunities beforehand (other than occasional clips of Grease and Fame). This is due to my mother's dislike of musicals, with her unchangeable opinion that "they break out into song for no reason. Why can't they just talk?!" I did not feel this in the slightest in Les Misérables, for I found that the singing added depth of emotion to their words and acted as a magnified tone of voice.
I shall attempt to give an inexperienced teenager’s explanation of the plot of Les Misérables, so forgive my lack of knowledge on musicals, theatre and film!
The story follows Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman), beginning as a French prisoner in 1815 forced into laborious work for a minor offence. Here, inspector Javert (Russel Crowe) finds out that Valjean has stolen bread in order to feed his sister's starving child. Compelled by his obsessive wish to fulfil his duty as an inspector, Javert embarks on his lifelong hunt to prosecute Valjean.
Valjean, however, manages to escape prison. The natural goodwill of a Bishop restores his damaged faith in human kindness and, through his emotional performance of "What Have I Done?” Valjean displays his wish to become a good person. Years later, he is a dignified factory owner and it is in his factory we meet Fantine (Anne Hatheway), a poor young mother with an illegitimate child: Cosette (played as a child by Isabelle allen and as a teen by Amanda Seyfried). The unsympathetic blabbing about this child by her fellow workers leads Fantine to be ousted from the factory. Desperation to find the money to treat Cosette, who is ill, forces Fantine to sell her dignity in the form of her hair, teeth and through prostitution. The heart-wrenching performance by Hathaway induces empathy and pity from the audience.
Jean Valjean finds Fantine and acts as her saviour, although he is too late as she has become too weak and dies. Before her last breaths, filled with tear-inducing notes of "Come to me," Valjean promises to care for Cosette. True to his word, Valjean finds Cosette and raises her like a daughter, protecting her from the truth about her mother's death and the danger posed by Javert.
A romantic twist begins when Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a passionate young revolutionary during the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, catches sight of Cosette in the street. Their love is instantaneous and pushes the story into highlighting the pain and death inflicted on the revolutionaries during this time. Valjeane is forced into battle, too, as he attempts to find out about his daughter's lover. He saves Maurius from certain death and enables him to return to Cosette, whom Maurius loved so much that it caused him to question his commitment to the revolution.
This plot is an overview and does not include all that happens in the 2 ½ hours. I have not, for example, mentioned Thernardier and his spouse (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen), the corrupt innkeepers who house Cosette and force her to carry out laborious work before Jean Valjean finds her. However, their occasional money-making schemes throughout the film are humorous, introducing a welcoming light shade to an otherwise dark film.
I think the film deserves 9 out of 10, just missing perfection as there were times when I was hoping to skip a song or two and get to the action (but that might just be my mum coming out in me!). The cast sing live on set throughout the whole film, giving me utmost admiration for every one of the actors and actresses!