Director Tom Hooper, who won an Academy Award in 2011 for The King’s Speech, has created a musical masterwork in bringing the famed London musical to the screen. Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel has been made into more than 70 motion pictures since the Lumière Brothers’ 1897 silent version. The novel once had a place on the Vatican’s “Index of Forbidden Books” but was granted a reprieve in 1959 and lives again in theaters everywhere.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) has spent 19 years in prison, condemned to hard labor for stealing bread for his sister’s family. Just before Valjean’s release, Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) tells him he must report monthly or his parole will be revoked and he will be sent back to prison.
Once free, the angry Valjean accepts hospitality from a bishop and then steals the silver. When police capture him, the bishop says he gave the silver as a gift. This act of mercy puts Valjean on a path of righteousness, but he skips parole and becomes a factory owner and mayor of a town.
A young, unmarried woman, Fantine (Anne Hathaway), is cast out of his factory though she is supporting a young daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen as a child; Amanda Seyfried in later years). Valjean promises to care for her as Fantine is dying. Javert shows up again, and in a series of events, Valjean flees with Cosette to Paris to live in solitude until the revolution is revived.
Les Misérables is a profoundly Christian story bursting with themes from the Gospels, the sacraments, the creed, and morality. The actors sing live, and we see every emotion through intimate camera shots. At almost three hours in length, fans of the musical will be pleased, and my guess is there will not be a dry eye in the house.
A-3, PG-13 ■ Battle and gun violence, prostitution, mature themes.