Revolution against evil governments is nothing new. Many people can relate in our time just as folks in France in the 19th Century could. Nothing like rooting for the underdog while you watch major actors sing their hearts out!
Story Goes: Les Misérables" is based on the 1980’s stage musical which was based on the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. After the French Revolution in 1789, a new king still makes things awful for the poor while the rich prosper (what else is new, right?)
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is serving a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and for escape attempts. Prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) is constantly on his case.
Valjean is released but he’s an outcast and can’t find work so he returns to thievery to stay alive. He finally breaks his parole and creates a new identity to start over. Six years later, he is the mayor of a town and a successful businessman but Javert is still hot on his trail. One of the employees in Valjean’s factory, single mom Fantine (Anne Hathaway) loses the job and has to become a prostitute to feed her young daughter Cosette (later played by Amanda Seyfried). As Fantine dies, Valjean vows to care for Cosette.
As Javert closes in, a new revolution is brewing and the adult Cosette falls for young revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Can Valjean avoid Javert and still allow Cosette and Marius their happiness?
Special Features: Really loaded!! We have a most impressive “Making Of” featurette in Les Miserables: A Revolutionary Approach which is broken down into several parts: The Stars – Hugh, Anne, Amanda, Eddie, Russell and Samantha (Eponine) talk about their roles and Director Tom Hooper discusses casting actors who can really sing. The featurette covers the characters and each actor in depth. We learn that Anne’s mom was in the original traveling “Les Mis” theater company and that Russell Crowe’s first love was musical theater.
In The West End Connection (note: the West End is London’s theater district), we get to know the many actors in the movie who also played various roles in stage productions of “Les Mis”. Amazing group! The Locations of Les Miserables examines how the director and producers moved what was a stage musical out into the open from huge docks to French mountainsides and British locales serving as France. A fancy wedding scene was filmed in an ancient estate.
Creating the Perfect Paris focuses upon the art department, production design and set dressing to recreate the 19th century Paris the author of the novel Victor Hugo knew. We see the construction of huge sets on a soundstage at Pinewood Studios in England. Battle at the Barricade further examines shooting the big action scene in which students fight government soldiers. We learn that the cast was encouraged to just grab the prop furniture and, on camera, just build their own barricade. Actors reveal that they felt like true revolutionaries when it was all over.
One of the best featurettes is Les Miserables: Singing Live. If you’ve wondered why the film’s singing seems very different from the usual musical, Eddie Redmayne explains that a musical movie’s soundtrack is usually recorded in advance with actors on camera later just lip-syncing to their own recorded voices. This film required the cast to sing AND act live on set hearing just a piano in their ears on small radio mics. The cast talks about how they loved the chance to change and adapt their performances on the spot, especially Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway whose raw performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” earned her an Oscar. She says “I thought, (that) I can’t sing this “pretty”. I had to apply the truth”. The orchestra was added later. Super interesting!
The Original Masterwork: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables tells us all about the original novel, author Victor Hugo’s life and times etc. Not at all like a boring history lesson. Very cool. We see how timeless the themes of oppression and valor against all odds are. There is also a Feature Commentary by director Tom Hooper which provides more technical info and more on his decision to do the “on-set” singing. More interesting info.
Wrapping Up: Overall, if you know the musical, love the story, the characters and the songs, they are all there and presented with passion by the entire cast. You will need to use some tissues. If you don’t really know the story and aren’t up for lots of downer events with a few bright spots in a film, or you just don’t like musicals then, of course, Les Miserables isn’t for you. Never think, however, that the story isn’t relatable to today’s older kids or teens. Do we still have rich despots treating the poor horribly? Do we still have revolutions and young love against all odds? You bet!
This Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy of the film looks and sounds amazing and the Extras are very complete and very, very fun to watch. All the major actors comment a great deal and there is some behind the scenes footage to explain a lot of just how the complicated movie was made. I’m always up for a blooper reel, especially for a serious film but alas, I guess it wasn’t “dignified’ enough to lighten up and include it for this movie. Otherwise all the comments are fun and informative.. Just an excellent set to collect or give as a gift.
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