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Les Misérables: My Movie Review

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013

A few days ago I went to see the movie Les Misérables, going into it having no idea of what it was about, but being familiar with some of the music in it. Yesterday at lunch someone asked me if I liked it, and I responded “I don’t know”.


Just to get this out of the way, I’m not mentioning the names of any characters because, truthfully, I only remember the name of one of them, Cosette, and I’m not in the mood to go looking them all up. So go with me here as I give a synopsis, then opinion, about this film.

The title stands for “the miserable ones”, and man, did that turn out to be true. About 25 minutes in I leaned over to a young lady I consider as my niece and said “Wow, this is depressing”. Her response was “it gets worse”. As I stated earlier I knew it was a musical, and the only other musical I’ve paid money to go see was Phantom of the Opera, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and also didn’t know what the story was about before I went, though I knew all the music.

Overall this is the tale of a guy who’s finally released from a penal detention in France after 20 years because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, makes it on his own until he’s eventually rich. He tries to save a woman that was fired from his factory but she still dies and vows to take care of her child whom she’d left with some sleazy people. He turns himself in when another guy is arrested as him because he’d broken probation 8 years earlier, but runs to find and take care of the girl.

He hides with her about 9 years or so until a bunch of consequences find him hiding once again from Crowe, her falling in love with a young guy she just met, the young guy in the middle of trying to help start another French Revolution, the older guy saving him from being killed so he can get healthy and hook up with the young girl who’s been his daughter for all these years, goes away so his daughter will never know what he did, and then the young guy he saved learns he was saved by the older guy (he never knew), tells the daughter about it on their wedding day (along with the older guy’s background, which he never divulged to her), and they rush to the convent (I never knew men could be in a convent) where the older guy’s character is dying, dies and meets up with all the other people in the movie who died; whew!

The older guy is played by Hugh Jackman of Wolverine fame, and he actually goes through about 20 years of aging or so in the movie. He’s a credible singer, a Broadway guy, and he has the major part in this flick. The guy who gives him the “I’ll be watching you” speech is played by Russell Crowe. My wife would say he’s a “talking singer”, and I’ll go with that assessment. He had to be there because of his acting more than his singing, but truthfully I wasn’t overly impressed with his acting in this one. Actually, I’d never seen him in anything else that I could think of, and maybe this is why.

Anne Hathaway plays the woman who was fired from Jackman’s factory, and then whose life went into a major spiral, selling everything, having her hair cut, and becoming a prostitute. I knew the song “I Dreamed A Dream” pretty well, or so I thought, but seeing it performed in this movie the way they did it… this woman wins Best Supporting Actress, hands down! I have a much deeper appreciation for what this song was about.

The comic relief in the movie was handled by Helena Bonham Carter of Harry Potter and many other movies fame and Sacha Baron Cohen of Barat fame; he was unrecognizable to me and I only knew it was him when the credits came up. I hated them immensely, which probably means they did a good job.

Two people played Cosette, one as a young girl, then as an older girl Amanda Siegfried. Her singing was passable but nothing outstanding. Someone who I felt was really outstanding was Samantha Barks, whom I didn’t know but it turns out she’s also a Broadway star in her own right, and hot as well, even though she wasn’t supposed to be.

The guy who played the young man who Cosette falls in love with… don’t care, and that’s a shame. Truthfully, the student revolutionary piece kind of threw me off from the rest of the story, and the only part that actually made me care was when this young boy was killed by the French army on purpose; that was pretty cold.

One last thing before I move on. Crowe’s character, Mr. Law and Order, decides near the end to let Jackman’s character get a pass while he’s trying to save the young guy because Jackman had let his own life go when he could have killed him. Crowe’s character sees this as a flaw in himself and he jumps off a bridge to kill himself. What I didn’t expect was that they actually showed the body hitting the ground, half on the ground and half in water; I wasn’t prepared for that in this type of movie, and I have to admit I didn’t like it.

Overall review? There was a lot going on yet they kept it all together pretty well. I could have done without the revolution part but without it we’d have lost this one great song and I guess a purpose for Jackman to go try to save this kid. I wasn’t ever sure I cared about anyone in the movie until Jackman’s character was about to die. I almost cried, though I didn’t, but a lot of other people did; sniffles were everywhere, and I couldn’t blame any of them. It’s hard to say I enjoyed such a depressing movie but it did touch me. Since this isn’t normally the type of movie overall that I’d even watch, I’m not quite sure how to process it.

It touched me in a couple of places on an emotional level; I’ll own up to that. I liked the music but didn’t like what the director did. The shot the music “live” rather than in a studio, and to do it many of the music scenes were closeups, and I kept wishing they’d pull the camera back as that made me uncomfortable.

I’ll say this then. If you like musicals definitely go see this. If you like to cry, give it a shot. If you like happy endings, this ain’t it. This isn’t a bad movie, but I didn’t hear a single person saying as we were walking out “that was fantastic”. I think we were all too depressed. 🙂

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Isn’t the plot related to the classic book Les Misérables by Victor Hugo? If it is, I doubt that movie can come closer to original, the musical was also complete failure. Actually I have study about this book at school, probably at 5th or 6th grade.

January 3rd, 2013 | 10:46 PM

Yes it is Carl, but you’re not even close when you say the musical was a failure. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, and it’s been in production somewhere in the world as a major production for more than 30 years. Critics hated it but audiences have loved it. Failure; I think not. But you can imagine that over here that particular book wasn’t a favorite when I went to school; I have no idea if it is now.

January 3rd, 2013 | 11:42 PM

I will go ahead and comment for this one – I am almost with you in I am not sure if I liked the movie version as much as the stage version on reflection. I cried certainly – I cried buckets at the live performance too – but I cried in different parts. For one thing, I am an Eponine girl (the girl in love with the guy in love with Cosette – I won’t add names to the mix too much) and her part seemed much reduced to me in this version so that was a bummer (particularly when they had one of the more talented performers cast in her role) and Crowe was a definite disappointment as his character is one of my favorites and he just couldn’t do him justice. That said, I liked the visual of the film – on stage, you’re always limited but on film, the sky is the limit. That said, I’d highly recommend seeing Les Mis on stage even if you’ve seen the movie, it’s an entirely different show almost even if the music is all the same.
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January 4th, 2013 | 8:23 AM

Miss Krys, I’m honored by your presence (the niece! lol)! I’ll have to wait for you to go see the musical, since you know that woman I’m married to won’t go (she hates musicals), and we’ll have to find it somewhere. As I said, the song performed by Hathaway is so much different than how I’m used to hearing it; chilling how she did it. And I’ve spent time on YouTube listening to other songs performed by Samantha Barks; how’d I miss her for so long?

January 4th, 2013 | 8:12 PM

Hi Mitch,

I’m coming from Adrienne’s place and here I am 😉

lol 😀 I’ve never knew men can be in convents too.

Well, I’ve enjoyed Phantom of the Opera and the only reason I watched it ’cause of Gerard Butler 🙂 I’ve enjoyed it though it’s much of musical and never did such a movie earlier.

I’ve got to know of Les Miserables but still couldn’t get a chance to watch it though. I’m looking forward to enjoy when I can watch it in my country 🙂

Thanks for sharing your review and had no idea it’s simmilar to Phantom of the Opera. Glad I come here 🙂

Wish you a Happy New Year and much more success Mitch 🙂

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January 5th, 2013 | 6:50 AM

Welcome Mayura. Actually it’s nothing close to Phantom of the Opera except both were musicals that became musical movies. One ends a lot more upbeat than the other. Both have very good songs in them though. I hope you enjoy it when it does reach where you are.

January 6th, 2013 | 10:12 PM

I’ve been reading the book over the last year, and it has opened my world view and taken my philosophy to a whole new dimension. When i learned they were making a movie i almost jumped for joy, I enjoyed the movie but book was better.

January 7th, 2013 | 6:36 AM

I don’t have anything to compare it to in that vein Steve, and after watching this movie I know I’m not going to read the book, ever! lol

January 8th, 2013 | 12:10 AM

The introduction of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Jackson as amazing comedy duo Thenardier and Madame Thenardier delivers some relief to the terrible story. It is actually good to see Cohen doing something that isn’t the regular exhausted shtick we have come to anticipate from him.

January 8th, 2013 | 7:31 AM

Theresa, it looked nothing like him, and I think that shows this guy has great range. There was something else that’s escaping my mind now that it turned out he was in, and I remember being stunned when I learned he was the voice of the lead lemur in the Madagascar movies.

January 8th, 2013 | 6:33 PM

hi i would like first to thank you for your amazing review .i read the book before & we have an Egyptian movie for this book i watched too.but tell you the truth i was chocked when i knew that this is a musical but from your review & comments i start to change my mind & especially i like the actors very much

January 8th, 2013 | 2:56 PM

I hope you give it a shot marwa, although I always wonder how well usicals translate into other languages.

January 8th, 2013 | 11:00 PM

Read Les Misérables when I was about 9 or 10 years of age. Read it again when I was about 14-15.
Loved the book, showed me the negative axpectes of life from a very young age and also how cruel, twisted and mean people can get in the right circumstances.

It also left me with the idea what real honour actually is.
I personally hate musicals so I won’t see this film. But if you want to see something good I suggest : Les Misérables the 1998 version. Jean Valjean is played by Liam Neeson. The adaptation may not be the exact but the film overall is just great. And it also haves a happy ending.

January 12th, 2013 | 11:42 AM

Christian, one of my email chess buddies told me about that movie and I’d never heard of it; isn’t that a shame? Then I went to read about it and saw that there was a happy ending. Still, I have to admit that if it hadn’t been a musical I would never have been interested in the first place; I’m more of an American history guy, as that would make sense. 😉

January 13th, 2013 | 12:38 AM

Les Misérables has enough genuinely emotive power in its tank to guarantee a lot of people enormous pleasure. Good post, thanks for sharing.

January 15th, 2013 | 3:18 AM

No problem; glad you liked the movie.

January 16th, 2013 | 10:27 PM

I believe that what makes the Les Mis awesome is that the story itself speaks for what more people want to see. A story involving a man gone through so many hardship and moved on with life is something to look forward to. It is quite inspirational. Not to mention the love story, the against all odds story that made it more interesting.

January 16th, 2013 | 9:41 PM

Don’t ever watch the 1-minute clips of Les Mis without a box of tissues nearby. I really liked the movie. Good review, thanks for sharing.

January 17th, 2013 | 5:19 AM

It’s an excellent film, but does not carry the emotional impact that the Broadway production did. Crowe was a very weak Javert. Marius and Cosette seemed mismatched and some of the songs were cut short.

January 18th, 2013 | 11:54 PM

Great stuff Bryon, and I fully agree with you, even if I didn’t remember all the names. Mismatched; definitely. I couldn’t figure out why either actually loved the other. And the part Barks played… I loved her song but man, I wish there was more for her because she was fantastic.

January 19th, 2013 | 7:53 PM

I think Les Mis is the kind of movie that everyone should see. It was nice reading your review about it. Thanks for sharing!

January 21st, 2013 | 3:21 AM

The overall film is spectacular, and apart from the lagging moment in the middle, I was on the verge of tears the entire way through. Oh, and ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is the best scene I’ve seen in any film Ever.

January 21st, 2013 | 5:01 AM

Thanks for your opinion Kyron. That moment with Anne Hathaway was definitely powerful; I’d have to admit that I haven’t seen a lot of scenes like that one.

January 21st, 2013 | 9:03 PM

Awesome movie, awesome story, awesome actors and actresses! I also think that the live musical is better, but I think the movie is also worth watching.. Thanks for sharing, I appreciate it! 🙂

January 21st, 2013 | 5:34 AM

Thanks for your comment Sandra. I hope one day to see the play, although now that I’m prepared for what’s coming I wonder if it’ll have a much different impact on me.

January 21st, 2013 | 9:04 PM

I’ve heard from a few people that the movie was good, but not really that amazing. Haven’t watched the movie yet so I figured maybe a review will help me decide whether to watch it or not. Good that landed here and read your post. I think I’m still gonna watch it. thanks for sharing this.

January 21st, 2013 | 8:47 PM

No problem Arianne. If you watch it you’ll have to tell us what you thought of it.

January 22nd, 2013 | 1:54 AM

The movie’s biggest highlight, without a doubt, is Hugh Jackman. The actor as the good-hearted Jean Valjean delivers a performance that is measured yet emotionally stirring, he utterly deserves the Golden globe.

January 23rd, 2013 | 1:45 AM

It’s funny you say that Mario because I was out last night with some theater people who absolutely hated his performance, even though I thought it was pretty good. They loved the other two things I loved though, so they’re not all bad. lol He might win the Globe but I’m not sure he’ll get a fair shake at the Oscar like Anne Hathaway will.

January 23rd, 2013 | 7:22 PM
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