Last evening, Ashley and I were fortunate enough to participate in a pre-screening of Les Miserables.
Now, before I share my thoughts on the film, I must confess something - - - I went into the screening with absolutely no knowledge of the storyline. Sometimes I think that’s good – it allows you to go into the film with an open mind. However, in this case, hindsight tells me that I would have been better off at least knowing the backstory. This film just has so much depth that it would have helped to be more prepared!
Thankfully, I had press passes (which equals reserved seats) as a member of the Grace Hill Media press team. We got to the theater exactly 1/2 an hour before the film was to start and there were lots of people waiting in line. It was later announced that they had to turn 100 (very unhappy) people away.
In case you are like me and utterly ignorant of the film’s storyline, I”ll present you with some of the backstory:
Les Misérables is the motion-picture adaptation of the beloved global stage sensation seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and in 21 languages around the globe and still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 27th year. Helmed by The King’s Speech’s Academy Award®-winning director, Tom Hooper, the Working Title/Cameron Mackintosh production stars Hugh Jackman, Oscar® winner Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit and Samantha Barks.
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.
In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical brings its power to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale. With international superstars and beloved songs—including “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Bring Him Home,” “One Day More” and “On My Own”—Les Misérables, the show of shows, is now reborn as the cinematic musical experience of a lifetime.
The thoughts I had rolling through my head while viewing the film are very different from the thoughts I’m having this morning. While viewing, I was thinking things like:
- I had no idea that the entire film was in song!
- This is a very dark film. (The few times it flipped to a daylight scene, it almost hurt my eyes.)
- Anne Hathaway was amazingly convincing in the role of Fantine.
- The scenery seemed less-than-authentic.
- Hugh Jackman’s character - Jean Valjean – was very endearing.
- The musical scores had to be amazingly difficult to sing – yet they were executed flawlessly!
Now, the morning after, I have a bit more depth to my thoughts (at least, I hope I do!) and I’ve done a little bit more research too.
- In the opening scene, we’re introduced to Jean Valjean. His characters transforms throughout the film and the range of emotions that I went through while following his story was incredible. I started out feeling pity for him (an innocent man who had simply stolen a piece of bread for a dying niece was imprisoned for 19 years!). Then I felt proud of the transformation in his life – he became quite a successful man despite his hardships early on. He took on an orphaned child, which made me feel a heart-bond with him. He cared for that child and loved her unconditionally. I felt in awe of him as he allowed the very man who was pursuing him to get away not only once – but twice. Not only is this an admirable character, but the portrayal of him by Hugh Jackman is nothing short of amazing. It’s no wonder he was nominated for A Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
- I always knew that Anne Hathaway was a talented actress. However, her role in this movie gave me a whole new respect for her. She portrayed the character of Fantine with such depth and emotion that I was left shaking my head in awe. I felt as though I were right there with her, experiencing her pain and suffering. The Best Supporting Actress nomination – she definitely deserves that! Wow!
- When I think about the scenery and the darkness of this film, I realize that there was a reason for both things. The focus here is on the story and the characters, and not so much on the backgrounds/settings. I appreciate that, as it allowed me to focus on what was actually taking place, rather than being distracted by the extras.
- The music was nothing short of fabulous! While I have to admit that some of the story was a little hard to follow because I couldn’t always understand exactly what was being sung, the acting was so superb that you could pick up the meaning. Some of the musical arrangements seemed so difficult to sing, yet they pulled them off flawlessly (as stated above). I learned something this morning that made this even more amazing to me – all the singing was done LIVE! There were no voice-overs in this movie! Now, that is an incredible achievement and likely the reason critics call Les Miserables the “greatest musical of all time”.
- One of my favorite musical scenes was the one where Cosette and Marius meet. In addition to the beautiful duet by Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne there are other singing parts joining in. Beautifully executed!
Wow! Just wow! There is so much more that I could say, but really I think you just need to experience it for yourself.
I left the theater last night thinking that, while I was glad for the opportunity to see the film, I probably wouldn’t rush out to see it again, or buy it later. This morning, after viewing the trailer again, and watching some videos on the production of the movie, I’m left feeling like I could watch it again today and gain so much more!
I really can’t do it justice with my words and thoughts! Go see it next week and let me know what you think!
Edited to add: I had a friend question if this movie would be suitable for her 10-year-old (mature) daughter who is familiar with the storyline. I thought it might be helpful to share my answers here in case anyone else was wondering:
I think she'd probably be fine viewing the film, especially considering that she's familiar with the storyline. There is a scene near the beginning where Anne Hathaway's character takes part in prostitution - while fairly obvious, I felt it was very well-done and not trashy at all (no nudity). The parts that contain the Thenardiers are more humorous in nature. While they are running a less-than-reputable establishment, the more obvious parts are their pick-pocketing. There were several scenes containing them that made the audience laugh. There are some battle scenes; but, there again, they were very well-portrayed and not really the least bit gruesome. Gracie is 12 and I wouldn't have had any issue taking her to see the film (I just know it wouldn't be something she'd particularly care for). And it is long - 2 1/2 hours.
There is a scene where Russell Crow's character commits suicide by jumping from a ledge into the water below. It wouldn't be so bad if he'd just land in the water and float away, but he lands on a very shallow part (obviously concrete under the water) and it makes a horrific sound. It made me jump. I might cover my child's eyes for this part. Afterwards, it just shows his body floating away.
Then, during the battle scene, the Thenardiers' daughter (who likes Marius) gets shot and dies. There is nothing at all graphic about the scene, and he holds her until she dies, which was very sweet. Also, the little boy in that scene gets killed and dies with his eyes open (which they show twice).
You just might want to prepare ahead of these few scenes.