The Cultural Columnist

An analytical perspective to the news and experiences of the everyday

“Les Miserables” — A Huge Success

I watched Les Miserables on Christmas and I was convinced there were no words to describe its grandiosity—its lasting impression was too overwhelming to put into words.

But the flashbacks to Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” performance and especially young Isabelle Allen’s “Castle on a Cloud” have convinced me I need to give it a try.

My first reaction to the adaptation was towards the poignant, non-traditional themes of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece in this modern age of clichéd romantic storylines and comic book/novel-turned movies. They include the strong commitment to Christianity, the judgment that comes with it (especially seen through Javert), the pursuit of redemption (from Jean Valjean), poverty, prostitution, broken dreams, struggles of a single mother in 19th century France (Fantine), child neglect, childhood innocence (of little Cosette), class differences, freedom, war, impassioned youth (preparing for a revolution), first love (Marius and Cosette), unrequited love (by Eponine), paternal love and devotion (Jean Valjean for Cosette), camaraderie, brotherhood (Marius’ “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”), and death.

And I feel that their importance is timeless, therefore, remains relevant and necessary for all future generations to comprehend. (Not the absurdity labeled as a comedy these days like “Bridesmaids.”)

And all of these themes are presented in a strong ambience of the era of the French Revolution. The authentic settings and depictions of such poverty, strong Christian devotion and a struggling, fervent lower class gives richness to the delivery of Hugo’s classic—and a bit of humor with Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the wicked Thernardiers.

Then there’s the matter of director Tom Hooper’s idea for singing live—brilliant. The powerful projection of passion and emotion could not have been achieved without the freedom to apply the context of the lyrics to the delivery of the songs. It is evident with Hugh Jackman’s multiple soliloquys, Anne Hathaway’s breathtaking performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” and Eddie Redmayne’s moving “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” that unfailingly bring tears to the eyes of their audience. They are forced to sympathize with the singers who demonstrated an unmistakable commitment to their roles.

The adaptation showed many tragic deaths but the final scene confirmed it was not in vain and their aspirations may have been realized, giving the film a triumphant close.

There were many ways this film could have failed, like in the risky endeavor for live singing and the overall attempt of an adaptation of a stage sensation like Les Miserables. And as expected, some may disagree, but with its refreshingly new themes and a cast to effectively present it, I give it five stars.

3 comments on ““Les Miserables” — A Huge Success

  1. Pingback: Les Misérables [2012] | Constellation Onion

  2. Princess
    January 31, 2013

    Now don’t get me wrong, I thought Les Mis – the book – was fantastic. Such a beautiful story! But I thought the movie was…not very good. There was entirely too much singing, and couldn’t they have picked actors who could actually sing? Russell Crowe, especially, sounded like he was singing in the wrong key the whole time except for that solo he sings right before he dies. That was a pretty good scene. There were quite a few good scenes, but the movie as a whole didn’t quite gel together.

    Another thing: do you think, perhaps, that the stories written so long ago were less truthful because they were determined to present heroes and villains? But, how many heroes do you actually know? Could a man like Jean Valjean really exist, today, in our world? Maybe. One can dream, I suppose. But that’s where the charm of movies like Bridesmaids comes in. They present us as we are. We look at them and recognize ourselves, some of the time. That should count for something, in my book.

    I never write comments this long, lol. That’s a compliment to you. 😛 This post provoked me to think and speak (even if I am disagreeing).

    • The Cultural Columnist
      February 1, 2013

      I take it as a compliment as well. I LOVE when people disagree, which is, unfortunately, not often. I could get into why I think that happens but let that be for another conversation.

      Anyways, about Les Mis. I liked the singing. Music is such a beautiful way to express such poignant emotions that Hugo introduced in his book. I do have to agree that perhaps Russell Crowe was not the best choice for Javert, but in my perspective, it did not ruin the delivery of themes of his songs. This is where, I guess, Les Mis-the book- makes up for the not so strong points of the movie.

      I am not sure what you are asking in your second paragraph. Less truthful at the time or now? About heroes, I am not sure themes of redemption, love, both unrequited and mutual, camaraderie, etc, have to be presented through heroes. I am not saying you meant that either. But, in my opinion, the powerful themes of Les Mis is what makes the story relevant today. Not necessarily who represents them. I don’t exactly think a man like Jean Valjean could or could not exist today, but the qualities he symbolizes could very much exist. But, most importantly, they should exist.

      Now, here’s my issue with “Bridesmaids.” I do not think it is comical to take a dump in the street or in a sink. There are several parts of the movie that I thought were, for lack of a better word, stupid. And I don’t think stupidity should always be classified as humor. And it seems to be a big part of today’s culture. Although I see your point that some characters are a reflection of ourselves, that was not the driving factor of the movie.

      These kind of movies seem to fall into this plotline of ‘funny'(or attempt of it)-‘conflict’-‘conflicts-made-funny’-‘disaster-made-funny’-and then the big resolution sprinkled with funny. The disaster and resolution is where we may recognize ourselves, and by that time, the stupidity has stressed me out. But again, that’s my opinion. LOL.

      Anyways, thanks so much for reading. Please continue to do so and leave these great comments. [I think I beat the length of yours, sorry :(]

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December 2012


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