Willie Waffle is the movie critic for people who hate movie critics.

Les Misérables - Fill Your Holiday With Music & Angst - Review

lesmiserablesposter.jpgThis movie has been an Oscar contender since Universal started promoting a teaser trailer featuring Anne Hathaway singing, "I Dreamed a Dream."  The film's release into the theaters on Christmas Day just confirmed what many of us expected and hoped for.  Les Misérables is a fantastic musical sure to have a large presence on Oscar night.  This holiday season, you will be encountering people walking down the street singing "Jingle Bells" like elves and "One More Day" like French peasants.  

Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean - a prisoner released after serving 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his hungry nephew.  However, even parole is not enough to give a man a chance to start a new life, as he is required to carry papers explaining his misdeeds.  Looking for a clean break from the past, Jean Valjean acquires a new identity and becomes a pillar of society doing good at each opportunity.  Yet, he must look over his shoulder every day because he is being pursued by the prison guard, Javert (Russell Crowe), who terrorized him in the big house, and has dedicated his life to bringing Valjean to justice.      

Will Javert find Valjean?

Of course, Les Misérables is so much more than that, but it's hard to fit it all into a couple of paragraphs.  It is a musical in every sense of the word (really, more of an opera) as almost every single line of dialogue is sung and the movie features song after song giving the characters a chance to unveil every facet of their being and every emotion bottled up inside.  

Most of the cast shines.  Anne Hathaway as Fantine is absolutely 100% amazing.  She's so good, I almost forgot that I hate her (then, I remember how she ruined the Oscars a few years ago, and the blood begins to boil, is she even allowed to attend the ceremony after that debacle?).  After shocking and thrilling us in The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway is a different character here showing us all of this young woman's sadness, pain, failure, fear and loss.  It's hard to believe any other woman will be standing at the podium on Oscar night getting the golden bald dude as Best Supporting Actress (just don't let her host any portion of the show).

Then, get ready for Jackman.  He fills Valjean with fantastic fear, pride, strength, and a desire to be great.   Like Hathaway, you feel every emotion in his singing, and he's captivating as the lead.   Yet, he also knows how to blend into the scene when he is taking a secondary role. And, the physical transformations he goes through are shocking.  

Even Crowe is OK.  Sure, he doesn't have the best singing voice of the lot, but he also brings a wonderful ambiguity to Javert.  He's not a clear villain.  He's a guy doing what he thinks is right and driven by duty and the law, which are commendable.  

Others may question whether or not the law is justified, but he is supposed to uphold it, which is one of the ways Les Misérables reflects on the biggest questions about ethics, morality, what is right, what is wrong and the gray areas of life.  This is why it is universally so intriguing to all as the film (just like the show) constantly begs the audience to question decisions made by the characters on screen.    
Director Tom Hooper makes it an amazing spectacle to behold with massive sets, an epic feel, and songs all contributing to the story and characters, and he brings them to life so we don't dose off.

The last act gets a bit muddled as it becomes about Cosette's (Amanda Seyfried) sudden, love-at-first-sight romance with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), which focuses us on the least interesting characters (but gives Samantha Barks a chance to steal her portion of the show as Eponine).  It feels like it comes a little too much out of nowhere and never really develops as well as it does on stage.

Yet, you want, you need, you must go see Les Misérables.


3 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)

Les Misérables is rated PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements