labe- Les Miserables (2012) - Oh So Geeky

Les Miserables (2012)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables spans over a few decades in the midst of the French Revolution. Paris lights and high society are contrasted with the extreme poverty of its people. A whispering revolution is resounding to take hold.

Centering around an ex-convict who stole a loaf of bread for his starving family, Jean Valjean breaks his parole. Plunging ahead with a new identity, he rebuilds his life giving back to those suffering around him. Faith and forgiveness are his constants. A police inspector, Javert, is a man ruled by the law. With little space in his heart for compassion, he ruthlessly hunts down Valjean to send back to prison.

Les Misérables is a composite of the poorest of the poor, not only in wealth but in spirit. Its focus is the tug of war between Jean Valjean and Javert, among other minor characters.

The first is a man of God and compassion. The second is governed by law and justice. Valjean, becoming the father to motherless child, Cosette, finds love and a family he would have never had otherwise. Valjean is almost captured and sent back to prison several times by Javert, and in some instances, Valjean has the opportunity to do away with Javert to live his life finally free. And, instead, Valjean grants his nemesis freedom to come and find him once more. Javert's cold heart is eventually cut down by the wrath of forgiveness bestowed on him - such a thing he never granted others.

Cinematically what the production of Les Misérables created is almost too much to compose in one post. There are simply too many characters and stories to sum up in one way or another. However, there are few fine points that I felt needed addressing:

I didn't fall in love with Les Misérables like I thought I would. Though touched by the duality of Jean Valjean and Javert, the devastating life of Fantine and the nation's poverty, I wasn't emotionally torn as so many theater lovers declared or promised I would be. I felt a deep lack of connection to what was presented. It's hard for me to pinpoint why.

Critics like with all movies are either tearing Les Misérables up or falling head over heels. On one recurring argument, critics did not like how the film was staged. Tom Hooper chose to direct the camera as close to the actors as possible. Some critics even say that you can see the back of the actor's throats. Breaking away from the mold of musicals directed on film exactly as they are on stage with more elaborate sets, Les Misérables made us observers of this cruel world from where we couldn't hide from the characters' raw emotions. This different style of direction was as admirable as the cast singing live.

As all musical fans are, some of us come away liking other sequences over others. Uptempo numbers such as "At the End of the Day", "Master of the House", and "One Day More" were more my speed while other sequences seemed to lag. The dialogue is converted into enough musical soliloquies, though some numbers felt like they dragged on because of unequal pacing.

Fans of the book or musical production claim and conclude that had us non-fans been familiar with the original material we would come out loving the movie no matter what. I don't concur. You can love any book, play, or stage musical, and not love the movie interpretation. Or vice versa.

Perhaps the adoration for a motion picture lies in the expectations of it, especially ones that already have legions of fans. With the near constant Oscar-buzz for the past few months, especially for Anne Hathaway's performance (which I highly commend), it's possible that those who walked away not in complete adoration had our expectations unconsciously raised a little higher. And, they simply weren't met. Maybe seeing the film once and being a little bit more familiar with it, and seeing it again sometime will aid my reconsideration as to why I didn't walk away in love.

However, I didn't come away despising Les Misérables. In its world of such hardship, questions are driven home of what it means to live truly poorly. Fight for your rights, freedom, and life among the social classes and for the goodwill of others. Survive as you can by being a crook, a broken dreamer, following what is right by the law of your heart.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you see Les Miserables? What did you think?

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