LES MISERABLES (2012)

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Director: Tom Hooper
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 157 min.

In 1815, Jean Valjean is finally released from prison on parole; he has served 19 years as a slave in punishment for stealing a loaf of bread to save a family member from starvation.  As Valjean struggles to find employment and lodging, the startling kindness and mercy of a priest who reaches out to him moves him deeply.  Dedicating himself to the work of God and care of the poor, Valjean breaks his parole and begins a new life under a false identity. 

Several years later, Valjean has become a respected politician and businessman.  When a former prison guard, Javert, suddenly arrives in town, however, Valjean knows his true identity will soon be discovered.  Around the same time, he meets Fantine, a young woman who was fired from Valjean’s factory by a corrupt foreman and has since resorted to prostitution to provide for her young daughter, Cosette.   Realizing that Fantine is terminally ill, Valjean vows to care for Cosette.  Valjean and Cosette live a life on the run, pursued by Javert and attempting to find a safe haven in a society that is once again teetering on the brink of revolution.

An excellent film adaptation of an excellent musical! Unlike some stage-to-screen adaptations of musicals, Tom Hooper’s Les Mis keeps the focus on the music, even retaining the recitative portions of sung conversations between characters.  With the exception of the role of Javert, I never felt that either vocal talent or acting talent was compromised for the sake of the other.  Russell Crowe is undeniably a better actor than he is a singer.  Still, although his voice was sometimes overpowered by the other male voices, he was consistently on pitch and confident enough in his singing that it did not detract much from his overall performance.  And no surprises in the Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway!   A great film and fun to see on the big screen–I highly recommend this adaptation of Les Miserable.

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