Les Misérables leaves viewers clinging to Kleenex

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I walked into the 12 o’clock showing of Les Misérables at my local movie theatre with high expectations. I’m a big fan of the Broadway production as well as Victor Hugo’s novel and, admittedly, every muscle in Hugh Jackman’s body. I was delightfully surprised to see that the director, Tom Hooper, turned the work of Hugo into silver screen, Oscar deserving magic. Les Misérables stole my heart and helped me gain a newfound appreciation for Kleenex tissues.

Taking place in revolutionary 19th century France, Les Misérables is the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-convict who is hunted for years by the callous Javert (Russell Crowe) after breaking his parole. Jean Valjean, after recreating his identity, promises to care for factory worker turned prostitute Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette. His life thereafter is never the same.

With such a brilliant and decorated cast, consisting of big Hollywood names like Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, one might think that the movie wouldn’t really have to have the theatrical merit to draw an audience and make millions of dollars.  It could make money on star power alone.

On the contrary, this production stuck closely to its theatrical roots and strived to meet even the biggest Les Misérables fan’s expectations. It was produced on a grand scale and had virtually no spoken dialogue. Every song in the movie was not recorded beforehand but sung on set instead. Yes, maybe a few notes were missed but every second of unadulterated, in the moment, raw emotion made up for the minor flaws. We’re so used to hearing “perfect” voices in musicals, but if you went through what the destitute martyr figure Fantine went through or felt the despondent failure of Javert in his lowest moments, then I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to hit every note perfectly either.

The success of this movie lies in the gutsy and grand risks that Tom Hooper was so eager to take and the timeless characters that were so elegantly portrayed. Jean Valjean is by far the most heroic and virtuous man in literature. Marius is so hopelessly romantic and adorable even when he’s covered in feces on Jean Valjean’s shoulder. The lovelorn Eponine breaks your heart while she’s walking along the cobblestone streets of Paris, drenched in rain and unrequited love, telling a story even sadder than that of the ASPCA commercials.

I believe that Les Misérables was perfect because it gave audiences hope. Even if you’re prisoner 24601 on the run, a prostitute who is forced to live in humiliation to provide for her daughter, or a little girl who sings of a castle on a cloud amid the darkness in her life, you can dream and exceed every expectation you have of yourself.

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