Friday, February 1, 2013

Les Miserables (2012 movie)

Les Miserables: Fight, Dream, Hope, Love
      I went and saw Les Miserables last month...and OMG! It was AMAZING!!! Just extraordinary, brilliant, beautiful, romantic, heartbreaking, and so much more! If it doesn't win Best Film at the Oscars, I'll...well, I don't know what I would do, but I just really hope it wins!

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Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

    For twenty-five years he  had been alone in the world,
never father, lover, husband or friend.
-Victor Hugo

      After serving nineteen years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister and her child (as well as attempting to runaway), Jean Valjean or prisoner 24601 is let free from prison only to find out that he has been put on probation. Basically he travels from city to city in France to find some kind of living, but it's hard to do when you forced to show your papers or in his case, his yellow ticket signifying that he is a convicted criminal. No one wants him, no one cares for him and he doesn't even care for himself.

     Then God intervenes in the form of a kind priest (played by the wonderful Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean!!) He gives him food, shelter and a place to rest. Instead of thanking the priest for his generosity, Valjean makes off with his silver. He is caught by the police and then in an unlikely miracle, pardoned and forgiven by the priest who gives him the silver in hopes of becoming a better man. Valjean is overwhelmed by this incredible act of mercy and swears before God that he will never be the man he was before.

     The rest of the story is about Valjean as a better man and a man of God (the religious element is very deep in this story). He extends mercy and grace to those who suffer, raises a child who is not his, but loves her passionately, fights for justice by God's law and not the governments, forgives his enemy and sets him free, and in the end is rewarded for his faith in God and his compassion toward the suffering.

      I knew that Hugh Jackman was a stage actor in Australia long before he hit it big here in the USA. I had seen him in >>>Oklahoma!<<< and he was great. Because he was so well known to American audiences for his role as Wolverine and other action roles, a lot of people were skeptical if he could portray Jean Valjean in an honest way.  Well, he definitely won me over! He was incredible in the role and gave a very personable portrayal of Valjean as a man who is trying to forget his past, redeem himself from his sins, and fight for a better future. His singing voice is very different from what I'm use to hearing, but there was a lot of strength in the softness of his tone. 

     Acting-wise, he was perfect, like always! There is very little dialogue in the film; it just blends from one song to the next, but it still requires believable performances with the actors. Hugh Jackman really captured the essence of Valjean from a godless prisoner, a redeemed man, a respectable mayor and business man, which all led him to be a father, and a very good one too. It was wonderful seeing his character evolution through the film, seeing where he began and where he ended.

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Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert
He was the guardian of order,  the lightening of justice,
 the vengeance of society...
-Victor Hugo

     "I am the law and the law is not mocked," quotes Inspector Javert. Never has there been a man who lives his life so rigidly by the law as Javert. Cold and heartless, with no concept of kindness or mercy, he goes through the world keeping order and reform with the law as his only guide.

     Javert has been in hot pursuit of Valjean from the very start. It is made very clear from the beginning that these man hate each other and they both realize that their paths will eventually cross. When they do cross, it is an all out war between good and evil, the law and mercy, God and the government, and what is right in the eyes of God and in the eyes of man.

     With the exception of Fantine, Inspector Javert is probably the the character I pitied the most in the entire story. He is definitely a conflicted man whose view of justice was warped at the most. He is a hard man, a lost man, and a man who doesn't believe in redemption at all. Russell Crown displayed that compromised characterization very well. I loved the depth he gave to Javert, instead of just seeing him as a cruel man, you see him as a very broken man that can never except love or forgiveness.

     It took me a while to get use to his voice. It's very mellow and soft compared to most men I've heard play Javert. He does sing quite well, but I'm use to hearing a strong and powerful voice for Javert therefore giving the appearance of a strong and powerful man. In spite of that, I think Russell did a very good job at Javert. His ending scene is without a doubt his best scene, completely powerful.

~ ~ ~

Anne Hathaway as Fantine
She had known everything, borne and suffered everythin
and shed her last tear.
 -Victor Hugo

      No one has fallen farther from grace in Les Miserables than Fantine. The mother of an illegitimate child who is being raised by complete strangers, Fantine is fired from her job when her coworkers think that she has taken a second job as a prostitute to pay for her daughter. Although completely untrue, the foreman sends her away (mainly because she refused to sleep with him) and now Fantine is left in the streets with no way to care for her daughter, who is the only light in her life.

      For money, she cuts her hair, sells her two back teeth and becomes a prostitute. No matter how deep she falls, she still tries to maintain some kind of dignity, which is stamped upon by a cruel client and Javert. Finally after what seems to be the end, Valjean rescues her and gives her the redemption she has been searching for.

      Without a doubt the BEST performance in the entire film! Anne Hathaway was incredible! Her voice was beautiful and her acting was exceptional! I just loved her as Fantine. She gave the most heartbreaking and powerful performance out of anyone else in the whole film (that's saying something because everyone in the film was great!). No one could have played a better Fantine than her and she deserves all the praise that has been given to her for her breathtaking performance.

 ~ ~ ~

Amanda Seyfried as Cosette


Isabelle Allen as young Cosette
The bishop had caused virtue to dawn on his horizon;
Cosette brought the dawning of love.
-Victor Hugo
                                                                       
     An illegitimate child who is unwillingly left behind by her mother in hopes to save her, she is raised and abused by a heartless innkeeper and his wife who lie, cheat, and steal to make their living. Like her mother, Cosette dreams of happiness, but in her little mind she feels that she will never find it. That is until a handsome stranger comes and pays her evil caretakers to take her away. Then Cosette's dream of happiness comes true. She is loved, she has a home, a father, and a future.

     Nine years later, Cosette has blossomed from a raggedy and pitiful orphan into a beautiful and generous young woman who is devoted to her loving and protective father. Her life changes when she sets eyes on a handsome revolutionary and she captures his heart. Now Cosette questions her life, her loyalty and her love to her father and to this new man.

     When I heard that Amanda Seyfried was cast as Cosette my initial reaction was PERFECT! Her clear voice, prettiness and sweet demeanor was a perfect match for this role. Amanda played Cosette as a very innocent, but intelligent girl who is on the brink of womanhood in the midst of boiling revolution.

     Isabelle Allen who plays young Cosette was as charming as a child could get! She has a pretty voice for someone so young and you just want to hug her everytime you see her! Her scenes with Hugh Jackman are some of the most enjoyable moments in the story.

~ ~ ~ 

Eddie Redmayne as Marius Pontmercy
 In all his trials he was sustained
and at times even exalted by a
secret strength in himself.
-Victor Hugo

     Handsome, intelligent, political, a university student and heir to quite a bit of money; bourgeoisie citizen, Marius Pontmercy seems to have it made. He could stay up in an ivory tower making plans with what to do when he inherits his grandfather's fortune, but instead he is making speeches in the street, rallying the poor and forgotten people to revolt against the king.

     Marius has everything, but love. A ideal he scoffed at for years, until he sees Cosette, the beautiful daughter of a gentleman in the streets of Paris. With one look, Marius' life is never the same; he becomes infatuated and longs to know more about her. Even amidst the teasing he receives from he friends, Marius is resolute in his pursuit. He finds Cosette with the help of a friend (more on her later) and they both fall in love. When the revolution begins, and Cosette and her father have to leave, Marius is torn between following his heart or following his dream of a better world.

     I had only briefly heard of Eddie Redmayne, who seems to be very well known in England, but isn't really well known here in America. Well, is spite of that, he gave role of Marius a great deal of justice. His voice is...lets sum it up, heavenly to listen to! His acting is wonderful as well. Marius' solo, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, was beautiful. A well cast choice for a love struck revolutionary.

~ ~ ~

Samantha Barks as Eponine Thenardier
  She had accomplished a double progress,
towards the light and towards distress.
-Victor Hugo

     Once the spoiled brat of her parents, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, Eponine is now a street rat who lies and steals for her family. She'll do anything for food and money, no matter what it may take. Eponine has a double sided problem, she is in love with Marius Pontmercy, who is far above her rank and he is completely clueless about her affections . Especially when he sees lovely Cosette, the young girl that Eponine use to bully and look down upon, and he demands to know more about her. So Marius sends Eponine to do just that. Hard living and humiliation is a real bitch when it turns on you. Eponine lives for only one reason and that is Marius. She would do anything for him, but seeing him in love with a wealthy girl, especially one who was once in her present position, breaks her heart. When Eponine realizes that he may never be hers, she does the unthinkable and follows him to barricades.

      Many people have favored Eponine over Cosette mainly because most people can identify with Eponine's plight as the other girl. The one the guy never sees as someone he could be in love with. Understandable, but still, Marius' is in love with Cosette, who is a gracious and loving young woman, and chose her because of those qualities. Eponine is a liar and a thief and no matter how courageous and honorable her intentions might have been at the barricades, she was simply not the one for him.

     That all said, I loved Samantha Barks as Eponine! Her voice is beautiful and so is she. Her acting as a young woman thwarted by love was a great watch. I have the 25th anniversary edition of Les Miserable where she was Eponine and when I heard she was the official cast for the same part in the movie, I was floored! Perfect and exceptional in every way! (To think that people honestly wanted Taylor Swift to play Eponine. I don't think there could be a quicker way to debauch a great story than that. She would actually have to know about sacrificial love to be able to portray it.)

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Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as The Thenardiers
 "(A) dreadful pair, the Thenardiers, a marriage of cunning and fury."
-Victor Hugo 

     The villains that never seem to go away. The Thenadiers are about the worse couple anyone could think of. They lie, cheat, steal, terrorize, and will do anything to get money, which is all they care about. Cosette's former guardians, who hated her and parents of Eponine who spoiled her as a child and now use her in their plots to get rich. (Gavroche, the little revolutionary boy is also their son, but they threw him out in the streets when he refused to help them). By the end of the movie they (or at least Monsieur Thenardier) get their comeuppance from none other than Marius, the complete opposite of their worthless lives. It's a great scene!

     Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were wonderful in their roles, but the problem was, the Thenardiers are suppose to be ugly people and trying to make Helena B. Carter ugly is almost an impossibility! Either than that, they provided a lot of comic relief, especially in their immortal song, Master of The House, which is absolutely hysterical!

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 Les Miserables: International Trailer

     Wonderful, incredible, beautiful film!!! Surprisingly enough, I only cried a little bit in two scenes, both involving Fantine. Either than that, I didn't cry at all; which is more than I can say for the rest of the audience as well as my sisters, there wasn't a dry eye in the room!!!      I'm so glad it won best film at the Golden Globes as well as best male and female awards for Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway! They totally deserved them! This film had better make best film at the Oscars!
     

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