Review by Elliott
Bishop: But remember this, my brother, see in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the Passion and the Blood, God has raised you out of darkness; I have bought your soul for God!
Jean Valjean: To love another person is to see the face of God.
When choosing a movie to review, I like to pick something that has some clear moral message. Sometimes this can be difficult to find, but other times such as with this movie it is extremely easy. Ever since watching this I’ve wanted to review it, though I fear that nothing I write will do it the justice it deserves. In general, I don’t seek out musicals, but when I do, I typically enjoy them. Prior to this movie I hadn’t seen or read any adaptation of the story. Just to warn you, every piece of dialogue in the movie sung, so if musicals aren’t your thing, then this might not help change your mind. Despite this, the story this movie tells, is raw and beautiful. It’s full biblical references and should make you consider your own life and decisions. If your only excuse is that you don’t like musicals, then you should still considering seeing this.
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean
Russell Crowe as Javert
Anne Hathaway as Fantine
Amanda Seyfried as Cosette
Recording the actors’ singing live as they’re acting may not be a first for this film, but the scope, and especially the manner in which it’s being done, is: The actors wore ear pieces which fed the sound of a live piano being played off-stage, to keep their singing in key. The main novelty here is, there’s no count-in or predetermined tempo and the piano is following the pacing of the actor, not the other way around – a first for a filmed musical. Orchestral music was added post-production.
The first musical in ten years to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture since Chicago (2002).
Several actors went through transformations upon receiving their roles. Anne Hathaway lost 25 pounds in total for her portrayal of Fantine, while Hugh Jackman lost 30 pounds in order to play Valjean as a prisoner.
The story begins in 1815 at the French docks, Prisoner 42601 also know as Jean Valjean is being released from his imprisonment. He has spent the last 19 years as a prisoner for stealing food to feed his starving family. Javert, the police inspector, let’s him go free, but warns him that he will never really be free, that in the end he will bear the shame of his crime till he dies.
After being released, Jean Valjean searches for work, but because he is on parole,everyone turns him away and many people mistreat him. However the bishop of church comes across him and invites him into the church for some food and a place to rest. During the night Jean Valjean decides to steal the silver and run away, but is caught by morning and the authorities bring him back to the church. He has told the officers that the bishop gave him the silver, which they don’t believe. However, the bishop says that it is true and asks him why he left the best of the silver behind. He is released and the bishop urges him to use the sliver to become and honest man. Jean Valjean doesn’t know how to react and in the next scene we see his inward struggle on how to react to the mercy, love and grace he has been shown. In the end he decided to start a new life, he rips up his parole papers and begins a new life as a different man.
Fast forward several years, he’s started a factory where he employs women to make clothing and is also the mayor of Paris. It is here we are introduce to Fantine, a struggling mother who works hard in the factory to provide for her sick daughter Cosette. When the other women discover that she has a daughter, they turn against her and tell the foreman that she is sleeping around and will taint the reputation of the business, so he fires her. In desperation she goes to the slums of the town, where she can sell herself for money. Her intention is to only sell some of her daughters hair, but she is bullied into selling more than that. She sells her own hair, then some of her teeth, and lastly resorts to prostitution. One night in an attempt to defend herself, she strikes a man. He calls the police inspector over and demands she be punished. She pleads for mercy and tells them how her daughters life depends on her. Jean Valjean is nearby and overhears her story and comes to find out that she had been fired from his own factory. After finding this out, Valjean feels responsible and promises to take care of Fantine and her daughter.
During this encounter Javert, begins to suspect that Jean Valjean isn’t who he says he is. Ever since prisoner 42601(Valjean) broke his parole Javert has been on the search for him. As a man of the law, Javert makes it his priority to uphold the law, without a hint of mercy or forgiveness. It is his conviction that once a criminal, always a criminal. Although he suspect Jean Valjean of being prisoner 42601 he doesn’t have the proof yet. In the meantime another man is caught and is thought to be prisoner 42601. Jean Valjean hears about it and how this man is going to take the punishment for his crime(breaking parole). We once again see the inward struggle as he tries to decided whether to let this man take his punishment or whether to turn himself over to the police. In the end he decide tell the judge who he truly is and save the man who has been falsely accused. He isn’t immediately arrested and so he goes to the hospital to check on Fantine. She is near death, so Valjean promises her that he will take care Cosette like she is his own daughter. However, as he makes this promise, Javert arrives to arrest him. Valjean pleads for time, to setup a future for Fantine’s daughter, but Javert refuses. Since Javert can’t be reasoned with, Valjean decides to run and goes into hiding.
This only takes thru about half of the story, but I don’t want to give it all away. Jean Valjean ends up finding Cosette and taking care of her until she’s a young adult. But he has to spend the time living in hiding. During the same time the people begin a civil war and try to overthrow the monarchy. Javert continues to search for Jean Valjean to the point that it became his sole purpose in life. Eventually they have I final showdown, but I don’t want to give away the ending.
My wife asked me other day why I like this story so much. I didn’t really answer, because I’ve been try to figure it out myself. The visuals are superb, the singing is amazing and the acting is top notch. However in the end, the reason I like this movie so much is because of the moral struggles that the characters deal with and the many biblical themes. Overall the story is a sad one. I won’t try to trick you into thinking this is a happy movie. At the same time it isn’t completely sad either. In the end it is a movie that I think we can all relate to. It’s a story about an imperfect man who is shown grace and mercy. He’s given a second chance and strives to live an honest and good life. But despite his new resolve, he still isn’t perfect. His life is full of difficult decisions and moral dilemmas and although the situations, circumstances, and choices are all different, in the end our lives aren’t much different. We all are going to make good decisions and bad decision, help others and hurt others, choose righteousness and choose sin. At the end of lives all we can depend on is grace that God offers. This story shows imperfect people in an imperfect, difficult and sometimes cruel world, where the only hope in the end is God and His Grace.