Vive Les Mis et La Revolution!

Tom Hooper’s musical version of the Victor Hugo novel, Les Miserables,a classic tale of romance, morality and crushing poverty in revolutionary France, is spell-binding. This is due in no small measure to the astonishing performance of ex-convict Jean  Valjean by Aussie actor Hugh Jackman. Valjean, a credible thief, who does his hard time for 19 years before his redemption by a bishop. He rips ups his parole papers ushering in a life on the run relentlessly pursued by gendarme Javert played by Russell Crowe.  Surprisingly, Jackman has a strong, powerful voice as he sings his storyline, however a disappointing Russell Crowe fails to deliver as the ruthless Javert.  Although he has a history of excellent roles, he fails to deliver the terror Hugo clearly meant to capture in his novel.  Based on Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s musical version of Les Mis, this well-made film is expected to collect a fistfull of Oscar awards thanks to its brave direction and the excellent cast, which sings live, outstanding costumes and make-up.

The storyline reflects tow strong tenets of 19th century French society – the ruthless pursuit of wrongdoers by the law and the French citizen’s psyche which continues in contemporary society, which prides itself on evading the law.  Years after breaking parole Valjean has made good owning a factory where Fantine (Anne Hathaway), a young, abandoned mother works, but whose life crumbles when she is fired due to an oversight by Valjean.  Her downward spiral towards destitution and prostitution is shocking.   Her beautiful song, I Dreamed a Dream, delivered in a heart-felt, desperate manner, stuns theatre-goers.  In this renowned French tale, Valjean takes over the care of her orphaned daughter, Cosette, against a tense backdrop where revolutionaries plan the stand-off at the Barricades. Such dramatic action is paled slightly when one learns the dramatic marching of the French Army, bayonets drawn was actually filmed in Greenwich, instead of Paris’s stsreets.  Les Mis captures the powerful revolutionary emotion of the French and the restorative power of love – packaged in an exhilarating musical.

Jackman, a nominee for an Oscar, well deserves to win because Les Mis not only does his excellent portrayal of Valjean anchor the film, the role displays his vast range of acting talent, with his wonderful voice an exciting discovery.


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