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A Christmas gift for musical-and movie-lovers alike

01/23/2013

On Dec. 25, 2012, the motion picture adaptation of Les Misérables made its debut.

Originally a Victor Hugo novel published in 1862, Les Misérables gained world acclaim as a musical in 1980.

In his 2012 film version, director Tom Hooper attempts to bring the magic of a famous Broadway musical to the big screen.

Les Misérables is set in 19th century France and revolves around the character of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-prisoner turned “good Samaritan.”

Valjean is constantly on the run from Javert (Russell Crowe), who believes that, despite the fact that Valjean has served his time, he is a thief and a sinner and will be until the day that he dies.

The movie focuses on Valjean’s redemption, much of which comes from his agreeing to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter Cosette.

From the very beginning, audiences are faced with tough-to-swallow images and ideas; this pattern continues throughout the movie. Scenes such as the protagonist’s beating, the rape of a supporting character and the antagonist’s death are so emotionally compelling that viewers are frequently moved to tears.

Perhaps the main reason these scenes fill audiences with such emotion is because of the music and lyrics accompanying the visual.

One of the most well-known songs from the musical is “I Dreamed a Dream.” Actress Anne Hathaway, who is not known for her singing ability, did a phenomenal job with this emotional piece. The fact that audiences could hear the struggle, the tears, and the heartache in her voice makes this particular scene one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie.

In contrast to its emotional scenes, the movie brings in some comic relief of sorts with the Thénardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen).

These two are cast perfectly for their roles as thieving inn keepers who blame society for their state of suffering. Who can hold back laughter when these two ridiculous characters sing “Master of the House” while stealing from their patrons and feeding them “kidney of a horse and liver of a cat” in their sausage?

Les Misérables has been very successful, receiving mostly positive reviews from moviegoers and critics alike. It led all other movies on its opening day with $18.1 million at the box office, a record opening day for a musical, beating out High School Musical 3: Senior Year by $1.1 million.

Les Misérables also became the second-highest grossing movie launched on Christmas day, topped only by Sherlock Holmes in 2009.

The movie has already won numerous awards, including three Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Actor-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Jackman), and Best Supporting Actress-Motion Picture (Hathaway).

It has also been nominated for eight Academy Awards.

Les Misérables is a very moving film, just maybe not in the most heart-warming, Nicholas Sparks-kind of way. 

With themes such as compassion, political unrest, self-sacrifice, love at first sight, social injustice, unrequited love, forgiveness and redemption, this movie tells a story anyone can appreciate.

The movie is virtually all singing, so those who don’t appreciate musicals might have a harder time enjoying it.

Les Misérables comes highly recommended to those who love musicals by this critic—just don’t forget to have some tissue on hand.

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