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Les Miserables


There are those who will dismiss Les Misérables as too sentimental, populist and melodramatic to qualify as true art. I reply with a hearty yes!, it is certainly all of those things — in the best possible ways. It’s also gorgeously filmed, almost perfectly acted and one of the most emotionally devastating and gratifying movies I’ve ever seen. If that doesn’t qualify as “true art,” I’m not sure what would. Director Tom Hooper has crafted something of a Christmas miracle with his adaptation of the stage musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, which has been running pretty much continuously around the world since its Paris premiere in 1980. Hooper both stays utterly faithful to the original and also, astonishingly, makes the story entirely his own. Like the musical, this take on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel is nearly completely sung, with perhaps 100 words of spoken dialogue. Also, like the stage production, it narrows the book’s enormous range to home in on the tale of Jean Valjean (the extraordinary Hugh Jackman), who spends 20 years as a hard-time prisoner for stealing a loaf of bread, and his foe, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), who pursues Valjean after he breaks parole and changes his identity, his profession and his heart, going from fiercely bitter thief to God-fearing businessman and mayor. A student uprising, Valjean’s adoption of Cosette, the daughter of one of his factory workers, and a romantic triangle add layers amid the story’s central tension. Where the movie differs from the musical, and surpasses it, is in its intimacy. Here, you not only imagine the blood, smoke and sweat at the barricade, you witness it in visceral close-up — including the brutal death of a child that will strike some viewers especially hard given the tragedy in Connecticut. You watch the droplets falling on the pained face of Eponine (Samantha Banks) as she meets her fate in “A Little Fall of Rain.” You take in the agony in Marius’ (Eddie Redmayne) eyes as he mourns his friends in “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” Foremost, you get gut-punching glimpses into the tormented hearts of Fantine (Cosette’s mother, played by an angelic Anne Hathaway), Valjean and Javert. Much has been said about Hathaway’s performance, and if she doesn’t win an Oscar for her choking, desperate version of “I Dreamed a Dream,” there is no justice. Put all thoughts of Susan Boyle out of your mind. The real revelations here are Jackman and Redmayne. Both sing like Broadway gods (in fact, Jackman sounds a lot like Colm Wilkinson, Broadway’s original Valjean, who appears in the movie as a kindly bishop). Jackman’s transformative “Valjean’s Soliloquy,” in which the character turns to God, scorches with its power and pathos. Crowe isn’t as good a singer as the others, but he makes up for it with haunting insight into Javert, who ultimately is as much a victim as anyone else in the story. Yes, the film is depressing — think about the title, after all. But it does have a touch of comedy, courtesy of over-the-top Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as Cosette’s disgusting, conniving foster parents. Les Misérables is also gloriously uplifting, heartening and hopeful. Unless you’re a Grinch whose heart is three sizes too small, you leave singing, at the very least under your breath. Courtesy: Joy Tipping, The Dallas Morning NewsOfficial Trailer
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Directed by: 
Tom Hooper
Running Time: 
Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen
Screenplay by: 
Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil

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