I was fortunate to see this powerful musical at the cinema this past weekend. It's based on the sung-through musical play "LES MISERABLES" by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, who in turn based their musical on the famous 19th century novel by Victor Hugo (which you can get for free on Kindle).
The film, directed by Tom Hooper, has an outstanding cast. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, a man sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread in 19th century France. Science-fiction fans will recognize Jackman as "Logan/Wolverine" in the "X-Men" films (MARVEL franchise), where we saw him as a rugged individual. This tough, "everyman" quality makes Jackman an excellent choice for the role of Valjean, the main protagonist in "LES MISERABLES."
Anne Hathaway stars as Fantine, the garment factory worker who is also a single mother struggling to feed her daughter, Cosette. Because of her work/social status/financial situation, Fantine is forced to leave Cosette with the Thenardiers, a male/female couple who are scheming, swindling innkeepers.
At first, I wasn't convinced Hathaway could pull off playing a character at the bottom of society, someone being hit hard by life's body blows of hard knocks, but Hathaway surprised me. This talented actress's eyes and face show us an incredible range and depth of emotion, pain, suffering and sorrow within the human soul, particularly as she sings "I Dreamed a Dream." (You can catch a glimpse of Hathaway singing this profound song in the "LES MISERABLES" trailer.)
Sacha Baron Cohen (of "Borat" fame) and Helena Bonham Carter's portrayals of the Thenardiers are a monument to comedy and bring the necessary balance of humor to "LES MISERABLES," (in order that the audience is not completely lost in the misery of the miserable.) Cohen and Carter also help to somewhat assuage two of the main problems with the film: It's having too many songs and not enough action (having an interest in the French Revolution/history, I would have liked to see the revolutionary activities sooner) and also being too long at almost three hours. Cohen and Carter are extremely talented at portraying the Thenardiers as scoundrels who are simultaneously disgusting, yet intriguing, leaving you wondering what outrageous scam they're going to try next. Their antics are extremely fun to watch. (And a word of advice: If you ever find yourself at their "inn," watch your pockets and do NOT under any circumstances partake of the "food.")
The film's other actors and actresses also make strong portrayals of the "LES MISERABLES" characters, including Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Eddie Redmayne as Marius, Aaron Tveit as Enjorlas, and Samantha Barks as Eponine.
One young actor in particular gave an amazing performance, Daniel Huddlestone, who plays the street urchin, Gavroche. Gavroche is a compelling character, who lives by his wits, but also reveals himself as much more than just a boy on the streets. By virtue of his hope and courage, he becomes a key figure, a symbol for liberty. My favorite scene in the entire film is when Gavroche receives a medal from a person you least expect (I won't say more than that, as I don't want to spoil anything.) I don't often get lumps in my throat at movies, but this scene started to choke me up. It's a stunning scene that transcends the film itself. What happens in the scene reminds many of us who know about the true price of liberty.
There's much more to say about this film, and perhaps I'll write another blog post about the themes and subject matter in "LES MISERABLES."
Just curious, what do you think about the film? Did you read the novel by Victor Hugo? Have you seen the musical on stage? What do you think the main theme is of "LES MISERABLES"? What is the story really about? What moves you the most in the story? Favorite characters? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting on this blog post.
As we get started with those questions (and then begin to ponder deeper ones) I'll leave a short excerpt from the song "I Dreamed a Dream." (The music is by Claude-Michel Schönberg, with orchestrations by John Cameron. The English lyrics are by Herbert Kretzmer, based on the original French libretto by Alain Boublil from the original French production.)
This is the part of the song that speaks to me the most, the end (or can it also be a beginning?). The true nature of dreams (or desires/wants) interests me (particularly which dreams are real dreams that include all people and which may not be true dreams at all, but only a Versailles type hall of mirrors illusions that others quickly turn against us?) I write about the nature of dreams often in my own poetry/books/stories, but these lyrics hit me beyond that, to the core of a sadness/midnight of realization that many of us fight to claw our way back out of with bleeding hands...
"But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed."