Les Miserables in all its glory!
Revolution, songs, drama, compassion, mercy, crowds, human misery, dashed dreams, A-class actors.
Dear readers, I am describing not another dharna or jalsa in Pakistan, but a movie that has so far swept the award shows.
A movie with soaring soundtracks, heartfelt, brilliant performances, stunning sets and spectacular cinematography that will leave you blown away at the end, director Tom Hooper’s musical masterpiece is one for the ages.
Set in 19th century France, Les Miserables (pronounced as Lay Miz-er-ahb) is a musical film that revolves around Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) who is serving imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. He is set free on a strict parole by an inflexible and austere Inspector Javert (played by Russell Crowe).
(Warning, spoilers ahead)
Sidelined by society because of his criminal past, Valjean escapes the police watch and changes his identity. He becomes a textile factory owner in a small town, is elected as a mayor and later rescues a prostitute from her wretched conditions, but is unable prevent her from dying.
The prostitute Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway) makes Valjean promise that he will look after her daughter Cosette (played by Anna Isabelle as a child and by Amanda Seyfried as a young woman.)
To make matters even more complicated Valjean is being hunted by Javert who recognises his former prisoner and who leaves no stone unturned to put Valjean behind bars again.
Together Valjean and Cosette, embark on a journey that would take them to the squalor ridden, grimy grubby Parisian neighbourhoods, where Valjean has to protect his adopted daughter in the midst of a Student Revolution, while dodging Javert.
The performances by all the actors were phenomenal, but Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crow merit special attention. It must be noted that all characters in this film sang their own songs live and no back stage vocals were involved.
Anne rather than playing her character Fantine actually becomes Fantine. Her shaved hair, sunken despair filled eyes and starved face, make the audience believe in Fantine’s suffering as a person.
The highlight of the movie was Anne’s song I Dreamed a Dream, which she sang live with such emotion, that every word coming from her mouth was laced with desolation and gloom that was inflicted on her life.
As I sat in the cinema, I can honestly tell, that nobody was left unmoved by that performance. Though, her character's time on screen was small, but she left a huge mark on the movie.
Russell Crowe’s, Javert is a bit of a tricky character. He is supposed to be stubborn and strict, and by the end movie, you are as exasperated by him as is Valjean is. Talk about being engrossed in the movie!
Russell Crowe’s singing is at times forced but all in all its one of his better performances.
However, the star and anchor of the movie is undeniably Hugh Jackman; his interpretation of Valjean’s character was superb.
From the very beginning, he was deep into his character - from playing the overly punished half crazed famished prisoner to a compassionate caring and protective father.
Hugh Jackman showed why he deserved his Golden Globes award for Best Actor.
Unlike his fellow Aussie actor Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman is unimpeded by vocal constraints. This is in part due to his performances in hit musicals like The Boy from Oz, Carousel and Oklahoma. Even then, nothing so far he has done in entire career tops this performance.
Aside from Anne, Russel and Hugh, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen (as the Thenardiers couple who run an inn, and are con artists par excellence) provide the audience with humour that is actually as dark as the overall theme of the movie.
In the end, this movie leaves a huge impression on you about the frightful realities of life.
Director Tom Hooper introduces to you a fetid and grim side of 19th century Paris where revolution among young men is brewing to overthrow a corrupt government, where a father is trying to keep his promise and a police officer who is hell bent on upholding the law, while peace and mercy remain elusive.
The movie is nearly three hours long, with little or no dialogue - just songs. It gets a bit tedious as it inches towards the end, what with zooming camera work and spectacular sets, your brain becomes a bit exhausted.
It’s not everybody’s cup of tea I would say, but even if you don’t like musicals (I never did, before I saw this movie), you must watch this one. Enjoy!
Now, I gather that this movie is currently not being played at any cinema in Pakistan, but if you get your hands on a DVD after some time, then do save it in your collection.
On a side note, the movie is rated PG-13.
Read more by Jamaluddin here or follow him on Twitter @einsjam
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