Friday, March 29, 2013

Movie Review: Les Miserables

About the Movie:
Hugh Jackman, Academy Award winner Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway star in this critically-acclaimed adaptation of the epic musical phenomenon. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misrables tells the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman), hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe), after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

My Comments:
A couple of weeks ago I got an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing Les Miserables.  Now, I'm a reader, not a movie watcher but I did know that there was a recent Broadway show Les Miserables, and was aware that it had been made into an acclaimed film.  Frankly, I didn't think that was the film I would be receiving; I figured it would be a cheap knock-off--some small studio's take on the classic book.  Still, the price was right (yep, free review copy) so I said  "sure".  When my teen daughter saw the above DVD, she asked "Why do they need you to review that; it's awesome!"  

The email was from an organization called Allied Faith and Family and here is what they had to say about Les Miserables:
LES MISÉRABLES provides a real-life look at the paths we choose in life, the decisions we make, and how the steep, narrow, uphill path points toward ultimate fulfillment. It shows how our human choices often conflict with God’s plan for our lives but how when we surrender to divine providence we can be confident that things will work out in the end. The story is so emotionally engaging and packed with Christian meaning, in fact, that at times you will not believe your eyes.
Both Valjean, through a major conversion initiated by a model priest, and Javert, another faithful Christian who prays to do God’s will, commit their lives to doing God’s will as they see it. But one operates with love while the other cares only about the letter of the law. One represents Peter and the other Judas Iscariot in that both betray Christ but one chooses repentance while the other chooses despair. And all of this operatic drama is performed against the most stirring soundtrack ever recorded live on a film set.
I asked Josh from Allied Faith and Family if he was looking for a review of the movie as family entertainment, and he said that was exactly what he was looking for.  Well, that's what he is going to get.

If your family has young kids, this film is not family entertainment.  As noted above, I'm not a big moviegoer so I'm not sure what types of movies usually get PG-13 ratings but this one was totally inappropriate for my almost nine year old.  First of all, she had trouble following the story at all.  I had to explain everything from  why the prisoners were pulling a ship into dry dock, what it meant when Valjean threw his papers away, why Fantine got her hair cut or teeth pulled, and why people looked so dirty.  Second of all I was trying to explain what the men were doing to the prostitute and why her clothes were almost falling off of her.  (I said some men enjoy hurting women).  Thirdly, there was a lot of death, including the death of  a boy about her age and of a woman dying in the arms of her love.  There was blood running in the streets.  There was a sex scene--you really couldn't see anything, but to those in the know it was clear what they were doing--and I'm not using that scene as an gateway to the birds and the bees talk with her.  There were a couple of scenes  where I covered her eyes and finally she left the room in tears after a death scene and I put her to bed.  

On the other hand, for appropriate age groups (definitely after the birds and the bees talk, and able to handle death up close) it was a wonderful film. It was almost completely sung and I loved the music.  The scenes of Paris and the crowds of poor were wonderfully done.  You could almost get a feel for the massiveness of the work but the massiveness of crowds beginning with the prisoners at the beginning of the film and ending with wedding at the end.  The story of course is classic.  

After we watched the movie I asked my teen daughter, who is currently taking AP Literature and is, therefore, used to analyzing literature for symbols and themes and that sort of thing, which Biblical characters Valjean and Javert stood for.  She asked if Valjean was a Christ figure.  When I told her Peter and Judas, she said that yes, she could see it, but she never would have come up with it on her own.  That was my thought as well.  

So, the verdict?  As an adult movie:  Grade A. As a family movie, for families with kids younger than teens:  F.  

Thanks Josh for the opportunity to review this movie.


  1. Wow, it's been forever since I've reviewed a movie. What a great opportunity. I must say I would not have even thought about letting a 9yr old watch a PG-13 movie until I had watched it myself or read family reviews.

  2. Good review. I think any true film and music lover will see a spark of greatness in this movie, and if not, to each their own I guess. As for me, I think this film will be remembered as a phenomenal musical and a brilliant film.

  3. I loved Les Mis when I saw it on stage for the first time, 25 years ago and I loved the film adaptation. Your review is awesome. It's definitely one of those age appropriate films. It sounds like it was a great step towards conversation and discussion though.


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