Les Misérables (2012) (♦♦♦♦)

Jean Valjean is a man condemned to almost two decades in jail for stealing a loaf of bread and then trying to escape prison. He is finally given his freedom but with the condition that he’ll be on parole forever. Eight years later Valjean has straightened out, has become a wealthy man and is the major of his town, but a blast from the past comes in the form of Inspector Javert, the man who as a jailer made Valjean’s life a living hell.

Inspector Javert soon begins to suspect the true identity of the major and makes inquiries, which prompts Valjean to flee the town. As a debt to Fantine, a factory worker turned prostitute out of necessity, Valjean takes young Cosette under his wing before he flees. Nine years later, France is on the brink of revolution and Valjean once again meets his archenemy, but under duress he makes a decision that may very well impact the rest of the story.

This year’s version of Les Misérables is a big screen adaptation of the homonymous stage musical. Though sweeping, lush and vast in scope, I found it wanting. Somehow feelings and emotions got lost in translation. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, in fact for most of the movie I was hypnotized, but I don’t think is the musical to end all musicals—as I have heard critics rave. I liked The Sound of Music, Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof (actually made me cry!), Mamma Mia and The Phantom of the Opera way more than I liked this version of Les Misérables.

I think it was detrimental to this adaptation that the source material is way too dramatic; there’s no room for enjoyment. It is quite a shock to see a rebellion and merciless killing played out with songs. Another factor working against it was a very good movie adaptation made in 1998 with Liam Neeson in the role of Jean Valjean and Claire Danes as Cosette. Throughout this musical I kept thinking of the other more accomplished, dramatic version.

In spite of it, Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Russell Crowe (Inspector Javert), Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne’s (Marius) performances are all fantastic, but somehow they didn’t click with me, didn’t trigger tears or rapid beats of my heart, or heartache for the fates of Fantine or Jean Valjean.

The most memorable song in Les Misérables is in my opinion I Dream a Dream, vibrantly interpreted by Anne Hathaway in the role of Fantine, Cosette’s mother. From watching the movie trailer I liked that song so much that I went to iTunes and downloaded it.

In summary, Les Misérables is a good movie, though not the best I’ve seen this year, not by a long shot.

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