The story takes place in France, 1815. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), is imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and nephew. After all those long years of labor under the watch of a very strict and law-abiding prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe), he is finally granted his parole. Having no family to go home to, he tries to find out what the world has left to offer to an ex-prisoner like him. He looks for work, but because his papers show that he is a “dangerous man” he is rejected. He wanders the streets as a beggar.
One night, he comes by the house of Bishop Digne (Colm Wilkinson) who offers him food and shelter. Despite the Bishop’s love and generosity, he steals his silver. Soon enough, he is caught by the authorities. However, the Bishop lies and tells that it was a gift to his guest and asked for Valjean’s release. Jean Valjean, deeply touched by the goodness of the Bishop, breaks his parole and decides to create a new life and a new identity. Meanwhile, Javert swears to search for the escaped convict and bring justice. Eight years later, Jean Valjean becomes a wealthy factory owner and mayor of Montreuil Sur Mer under a false personality.
Fate plays with Jean Valjean as he tries to help an old man who was crushed under a heavy carriage. The strength of the relatively old man was witnessed by Inspector Javert which makes him suspect that the nobleman is the escaped parolee, Jean Valjean, also known as Prisoner 24601. Then, fate plays with Valjean again as he comes across Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a young, lovely lady who was fired from the factory and resorts to prostitution to earn money so she can send it her daughter, Cosette, who lives with the innkeepers/thieves, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonhan Carter).
After Fantine’s death, Valjean fulfills his promise by looking for Cosette and taking her into his protection even if he has to run away from Inspector Javert who pursuits him. Cosette (Amanda Seyfreid) grows up to be a fine young lady and meets Marius (Eddie Redmayne), a young nobleman-turned-revolutionary. A love triangle builds up among Cosette, Marius, and Eponine (Samantha Barker) – the daughter of the Thenardiers. During the war where the revolutionaries built up the barricades, Valjean finds out of the love affair between Cosette and Marius.
Valjean goes to the barricades and saves the life of Marius. Marius survives and marries Cosette. Valjean isolates himself from his “child” Cosette and lives in the convent. Cosette finds him and the dying Jean Valjean reveals his story that he has long kept from Cosette. Analysis and Critique Les Miserables offered an experience which I cannot consider great, but does also not deserve to be considered a waste of time; it is okay. There are some parts which worked out very well, while some came off to be a bit awkward or inappropriate.
Throughout the movie, we can observe the dragging feeling brought by the overly dramatic song numbers and the divas. We must understand that the title, Les Miserables, literally means “The Miserable Ones” or “The Wretched Poor” which pertains to the French people in general during the time of the revolution. In the movie, these people are represented by the miserable ones – Jean, Fantine, Javert, Cosette, Marius, and Eponine. These four all had solo performances in the movie which showcased somehow a background about their personality, sufferings, sacrifices, sentiments, and ideals.
Hugh Jackman gave justice to the character of Jean Valjean. His solo, “Valjean’s Soliloquy”, is the turning point of Valjean’s life wherein he decides to make a new identity and change his life. He is labeled a dangerous man by the law yet the Bishop shows him love and generosity. The musical piece itself as well as the actor’s rendition of the song perfectly shows the inner conflict happening to the character. Another part that I like is the solo “Suddenly” which Jackman sings at the point when he “buys” Cosette from the Thenardiers. It is also a number full of emotions, hope, and passion.
The tempo is slow, reflecting that Valjean is embracing the fact that at last, he finds a companion after years of being alone. The most heartbreaking solo in the movie is Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” which is shot close-up to beautifully display Fantine’s tired and hopeless eyes, violently torn hair, and starved body. The slow tempo and the lyrics are so emotionally tugging that one cannot help but shed a few tears. Hathaway did a good job in delivering the song with conviction, though her singing voice is not the kind which perfectly fits the role of Fantine.
Moreover, “Master of the House” is the ice-breaker from a series of heavily dramatic scenes. The tune is very catchy with a mischievous feel. Like the other songs in the movie, the song has a theme. The first part is slow, and then the theme slowly comes in the second verse. The musical theme is slow at the start, then it gradually becomes faster, after that there is a break then, becomes very slow with a bit seductive tone and comes back to a fast tempo as they end the production number. The repetitive and lively tune of this song made it very memorable.
I must also commend the very impressive portrayals of the actors Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonhan Carter who played Monsieur and Madame Thenardier. This part of the movie is the one I consider to be the part which worked out perfectly well. Of course, the most awaited part is “On My Own” by Eponine. I wanted to compare Samantha Barker’s version with that of our very own Lea Salonga’s version. Considering Barker’s relatively young career, I must admit that she did a great job in rendering the song. Her voice and overall performance effectively shot through my heart, although Lea Salonga’s version is still unbeatable.
In contrast to all these good parts of the movie, I have some not-so-good parts to point out. Russell Crowe is an undeniably great actor; as a singer, maybe not so much. His rendition is somewhat awkward maybe due to his voice. Nevertheless, he does great with his acting. I am also disappointed that the romantic love story between Cosette and Marius was not really established as it was in the novel. However, doing so may have lengthened this two-hour-and-forty-minute movie. In Connection with Art As I have learned in art criticism, the principal criteria for art criticism are unity, complexity, and intensity.
A work of art, no matter what media it is, can only be considered good if its elements are in unity. In the movie, unity was established through the repetition of a theme to connect certain parts of the movie. For example, when Valjean is talking with the Thenardiers, his dialogue is sung to the tune of Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream. ” When the Thenardiers answer, the theme of “Master of the House” is still evident that even if you do just pay attention to the rhythm, you’ll know that it is the Thenardiers’ part. Another example is the scene when Eponine was shot and Marius comes to her side.
She expresses her feelings to the tune of her solo, “On My Own”. Another way to unify the movie is through “One Day More” –it song ties the movie altogether. The main characters, Valjean, Javert, Cosette, Eponine, Marius, and the Thenardiers, who are all looking forward to the revolution, altogether sang. They were all busy with their own different things and yet they unified through the song. Also, the production staff did a great job in the set up – 19th century France and the costumes were greatly thought of and artistically. The viewers feel the cramped up feeling of the French people through the narrow and dirty streets.
Also colors played a very good role in emphasizing the mood of a scene. The colorful costumes of the Thenardiers tell us of happy and mischievous personalities. The scene where Javert sings his solo before taking suicide is intentionally dark to portray his inner conflict. Towards the end, where Cosette and Marius knows the story of Valjean, the color is light and heaven-like portraying the enlightenment of the two lovers and the acceptance of Valjean that he is going to die after years of suffering. Les Miserables is a good movie in terms of the great leap form broadway to film.
The director did a good job in putting up the story together, not totally covering everything but enough to cover the main points. There are parts which are perfectly done- those parts that I have mentioned earlier. These made the movie a bit more interesting and beautiful. However, there are parts which are not delivered well enough. Though I have found myself in tears in the last few parts of the movie, I could not decide whether I was uplifted at the end because of the very grand finale or I was run over by the quick transition of the events. Nevertheless, I recommend this movie whether you have read the book or not.