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Christmas flick impresses with music, adaption (VIDEO)

Adapted from the 1862 historical novel by Victor Hugo and the popular Broadway musical, Les Miserables was a much-anticipated film airing Dec. 25. Les Miserables was previously made into a film in 1998 starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean; however, this newer version features the music portrayed in the Broadway musical that wasn?t part of the previous film. The addition of heart-wrenching music further added to the emotion that the characters conveyed.

Taking place in France in the 1800s and highlighting the Paris June Rebellion in 1832, Les Miserables depicts the redemptive story of ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who decides to take on a new identity and live an honest life after experiencing the compassion and generosity of a priest. Valjean becomes an honest businessman and uses his fortune and success to help others in need.

His love for others is displayed when he takes in the daughter of a woman named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) as his own. Fantine had previously worked in Valjean?s factory but was forced to become a prostitute when she was fired and faced with no moral, honest way to provide for her daughter.

Cossette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried), Fantine?s daughter, escapes from her sad life under the abusive care provided by the Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and grows up under the love and care of Valjean. However, they live a nomadic life, constantly in fear of being discovered by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), the officer who looked after Valjean when he was imprisoned, and who was put in charge of finding Valjean after he broke his parole.

The events of the movie intermixed with the characters? singing and sensational orchestral music eventually lead to a French rebellion led by Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit). The movie mixes rebellion, action, romance and sacrifice, which captures the audience and invokes an emotional response.

Hathaway portrays Fantine perfectly, capturing the pain and heartbreak that come from the emotional trauma of losing one?s dreams and pride. Especially moving is her song “I Dreamed a Dream,” which is shot at a close camera angle to show the deep emotion Hathaway conveys.

The costumes and sets take the audience back to 1800s Paris with their authenticity. And the extreme poverty depicted in the movie evokes compassion and shows the reason the French common people were so unhappy with the French aristocracy.

The cinematography was exquisite, capturing the sights of Paris and the characters? emotions. At one point the camera has a birds-eye-view of the revolutionary barricade, using dramatic irony to evoke a sense of fear within audience members, because we see the French army approaching from all angles and know the revolutionaries are in trouble.

I find myself constantly humming some of the songs from Les Miserables, such as “Red and Black,” “At The End Of The Day” and “One Day More,” as they have memorable melodies. Amanda Seyfried hits the high notes beautifully with Samantha Barks, who plays Eponine Thenardier, harmonizing with lower notes. Barks had played Eponine previously in theater productions of Les Miserables so was able to capture the character of Eponine exceptionally.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide comical relief in a movie full of rebellion and heartbreak. Their performance of “Master Of The House” is far less serious than the other songs in the movie, but still serves to display the dishonesty and desperation in French society.

While some songs are unforgettable, others make me cringe. Though his acting skills were magnificent, Russell Crowe?s singing was not the best, and some of his solos, such as the song “Stars,” were hard to watch. Crowe did, however, portray the character of Javert very well.

Les Miserables was an overall great movie, providing movie-watchers with action, romance, love and loss. I?ve already seen the movie twice and have heard of others who have already seen it for a fourth time. For anyone who enjoys musicals, I would definitely recommend this movie.

Les Miserables is rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive and sexual material and thematic elements. This movie runs at 158 minutes and can be viewed at more local theaters.

For more reviews, read the Dec. 17 article, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ masters special effects (VIDEO).

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