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Why You Should See “Les Misérables”

Rebecca Rider, Writer
January 22, 2013
Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Top Stories

“Les Misérables” has been causing quite a ruckus since its premier on Christmas Day.  By now, there are a plethora of reviews and an over-abundance of opinions about it.  But what exactly is up with this movie?  People seem to skip around the actual meat of the story and talk, instead, about the casting, or the music, or how Russell Crowe can’t sing.

Not being a Music major, I won’t even talk about the singing ability, or lack-thereof, of the cast.  What I can do, however, is tell you a bit more about the movie, where it originated, and what, exactly, it’s about.

Put simply, “Les Misérables” is about a man named Jean Valjean, who is an ex-prisoner on parole.  In 19th century France, this meant that he would be on parole the rest of his life, and forever marked as a criminal by his official papers, which he must carry everywhere.  His crime?  Stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister and nephew, which earned him 19 years in prison.  When he is inspired by an act of mercy, Jean Valjean tries to escape his fate by taking another name, and tries redeem himself by raising a young orphan girl.  His new life is constantly in danger from the policeman Javert, who is determined to catch Valjean and throw him back in prison.

That’s the plot of the story, which you may need when you see the movie, as the layout of the film is not friendly to the uninitiated.  That’s probably because the movie itself is an adaptation of an on-stage musical, which is an adaptation of the novel by social justice enthusiast Victor Hugo.  Did I say musical?  Let’s try opera.  While the numbers don’t hit the glass-breaking notes that opera is famous for, it resembles it nonetheless.  Nearly every line is sung.  This is not a movie for people who dislike music.  However, the songs are beautiful, and if word on the street is to be trusted, terribly catchy.

As the story itself is a character study, and the songs are inspired by each character rather than the plot, the visual elements of the film are relatively simplistic.  There aren’t any sweeping landscapes; Instead, it’s mostly simple shots of the actors.  Don’t be fooled by simplicity, though.  Visually, and taking composition into account, the shots are stunning.

It’s a great film, if a little long (2.5 hours, approximately), the characters are engaging, the songs are beautiful, and the story is tragic.  Don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s filed under “musicals.”  If you’re looking to add a bit of variety to your movie list, this is definitely a film I’d recommend.  I’d also recommend bringing a box of tissues.

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