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Movie Review: “Les Miserables”

Grade: A

For years, musical lovers have dreamed a dream and heard the people sing in an epic production based on an equally epic French novel.

The musical “Les Miserables” hit the big screen on Christmas day, a blockbuster adaptation which proved as much a visual gift as its brilliant score.

Movie musicals have had sort of a resurgence over the past decade. Films like “Hairspray,” “Mamma Mia!” and “Chicago” have all achieved critical success against the Hollywood competitive backdrop of massive budgets and action extravaganzas.

Even still, movie-goers not familiar with the “Les Miserables” story and musical might have been hesitant to see a nearly three hour drama whose soundtrack numbers 50 songs and nearly every character’s line is sung to one another.

Perhaps they heard of the dramatic performance of Anne Hathaway or the strong leads from Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Perhaps they were swayed to go after seeing “Les Miserables” take three Golden Globe Awards this past weekend including best musical or comedy motion picture.

Whatever got them into the theatre, most, including this reviewer, were glad they came.

“Les Miserables” is a classic story of human perserverance and justice. The film was adapted from the renowned 1980 musical production; this play itself was based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name.

The film revolves around Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a former convict who breaks parole and eventually becomes a mayor after assuming a new identity to evade arrest from Javert, his former prison guard (Russell Crowe).

His new life collides with Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a destitute, jobless mother desperate to support her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried).

All the while, French revolutionaries led by students Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) fight to overthrow the government which had grown increasingly negligent of the nation’s poor.

Against all odds, Valjean from his past, the revolutionaries against their country, the fight for freedom, hope and love rings true from open to close.

All of the classics are back, with Hathaway’s Golden Globe-winning performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” and the cast’s reprise of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” making up a soundtrack with few, if any weak links.

Crowe and Jackman show their versatility, with a more than acceptable performance as leadsmen beside supporting roles from Sacha Baron Cohen and Samantha Barks in her film debut.

There is still time to see “Les Miserables” in theatres, but it is well worth its time on any medium. Its compelling display of human emotion has served the classic story well, and contributes mightily in its legacy.

What did you think of the new adaptation of “Les Miserables?” Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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