Les Misérables Review
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Every once in a while, you’ll come across a film that’s more than just another movie—it’s an event. Often, these movies are released during the summer—big-budget action movies that wow audiences with their eye-popping effects. Sometimes, however, they might hit theaters in the winter. These winter releases usually aren’t wild and thrilling adventures; they’re epic dramas that capture your heart and move you to tears—like Tom Hooper’s unforgettable musical adaptation of Les Misérables.

Set in the midst of the French Revolution, Les Misérables tells the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a prisoner who’s paroled after serving 19 years for stealing bread. Once he’s released, though, he can’t get a job—and when a priest offers him a meal and a place to stay, he repays the kindness by stealing silver from the church. When the priest forgives him and sends him on his way, Jean realizes that it’s time to turn his life around—so he disappears and sets out to start a new life.

Years later, Jean has reinvented himself as a successful businessman and the mayor of Paris. When he’s given the opportunity to care for a dying woman (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter, he takes the child in, giving her a privileged life—but one spent constantly in hiding from ruthless lawman Javert (Russell Crowe).

In 2010, director Tom Hooper won audiences, critics, and an Oscar with his crowd-pleasing historical drama, The King’s Speech. His follow-up is much more ambitious: an epic story told on a grand scale with a massive cast. And, as if that weren’t already enough of a challenge, the actors spend much of the movie singing their lines instead of speaking them. Still, Hooper makes it all look easy—and almost everything about this grand production feels perfectly natural.

For the most part, the casting was a no-brainer. Need a guy who can act and sing? Hugh Jackman’s your guy. And after her musical number during the Oscars a couple of years ago, Anne Hathaway was an obvious choice, too. Both shine in their challenging roles—but it’s Hathaway who steals the film. Her brief but moving performance as Fantine is nothing short of brilliant—and if she doesn’t win an Oscar for it, there’s something seriously wrong with the Academy.

Other cast members, meanwhile, fit right in—especially Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the comically scheming Thénardiers, who joyfully belt out their lines. Really, the only cast member who shouldn’t try to sing his lines is poor Russell Crowe. Though he gets an A for effort, he definitely feels out of place in this otherwise harmonious cast.

The musical aspect does, at times, provide some challenges for viewers—and it’s sometimes difficult to pick up all of the dialogue. Still, the powerful story of love and sacrifice comes through loud and clear. It’s a story that’s so filled with drama and passion that you’ll have no problem sitting through the lengthy 157-minute runtime. And, when it’s over, you’ll most likely need to take a few minutes to stop and catch your breath—and dry your eyes—before you leave the theater.

Hooper’s Les Misérables is more than just another holiday-season release—it’s a movie-going experience that you won’t soon forget. Don’t miss it—even if you have to go on your own.

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