Les Miserables

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Les Miserables Movie Poster Image
Excellent film adaptation of gritty, heartbreaking musical.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 157 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 44 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 139 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The story's ultimate take-away is about the redemptive power of faith and love -- of God and/or of another person. And it raises thoughtful questions about the nature of justice, power, and duty. That said, many of the characters live truly miserable lives, and good deeds are rarely rewarded. But Jean Valjean does seek to do the right thing and to care for others, even though it might cost him his freedom. And Marius and his cohorts are motivated by passion and dedication to an ideal, even if things don't go the way they planned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Jean Valjean is a fugitive who breaks parole and spends much of the film trying to avoid being recaptured, the fact that he was originally imprisoned for a minor crime and then spends the rest of his life trying to selflessly help others are powerful mitigating factors. The dogged Javert is motivated by a powerful sense of duty and always thinks he's doing the right thing. The students are driven by a passionate belief in a cause. Fantine is a devoted mother who will do anything to keep her child safe; Eponine is similarly self-sacrificing for love. The Thenardiers are moral black holes who stop at nothing to make a profit, but they're clearly intended to be scoundrels.

Violence

Much of the second half of the film focuses on  the June Rebellion, a Paris uprising in 1832; there are many battle scenes that include gunfights, cannons, explosions, hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and fists, and plenty of dramatic, sad deaths (even children are involved). Because it's a musical, the violence is more play-like than realistic, and there's not much blood or gore (though one post-battle scene does show a stream of blood running down the cobblestone pavement), but it feels much grittier than the stage production. There are also some nasty beatings and a bone-crunching suicide leap. A woman prostitutes herself out of desperation; the scene is brutal and heart-wrenching. She scuffles with a potential client and bites him (a little blood is shown).

Sex

Some bawdy scenes/references, especially in a few scenes that feature prostitutes and a brothel. One scene shows a prostitute being used by a client (her skirt is up; he's on top of her); it isn't erotic or revealing. Lots of cleavage; lyrics include phrases like "ready for a quick one or a thick one in the park" and "thinks he's quite a lover, but there's not much there."

Language

Almost all the dialogue is sung, with very little profanity, but there are a couple of uses of words including "s--t" (once), "bitch," "ass," "hell," "damn," and "bastard." Other songs have some sexual references and mentions of whores.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes feature people drinking wine, including one set at an inn that's filled with drunken patrons.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this all-star version of Les Miserables is an adaptation of the world-famous stage musical, which itself is based on Victor Hugo's classic 1862 novel. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway star in the gritty, often-heartbreaking tale of justice, duty, love, and revolution. The film deals with abject poverty, prostitution, imprisonment, corruption, war, and death; all of which fans of the musical will be expecting -- but bringing the story to the screen means it has a much more realistic feel (despite the fact that the actors sing virtually all of the dialogue). Characters suffer painful beatings, degrade themselves out of desperation, engage in gun and bayonet fights, claw their way through unspeakable filth, and more. Expect some bawdy lyrics/references (with a sprinkling of curse words, including one "s--t"), a very sad scene in which an unwilling prostitute "entertains" a client, plenty of cleavage, some blood, and a few very sad deaths (including one suicide). But ultimately, Les Miserables is about the redemptive power of love and faith, and there are many moments of hope and beauty amid the miserable ones.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14 year old Written byTerryD December 26, 2012

Excellent adaptation of a Classic

I have seen the play twice and they did a wonderful job of incorporating the music by letting the actors sing in real time. There were nuances in their perfor... Continue reading
Parent of a 17 year old Written byTsion December 26, 2012

Heartbreaking and Uplifting - A Staggering Accomplishment

Les Miserables is the definition of epic: at two-and-a-half hours, it is an almost entirely sung-through operetta. The movie remarkably recreates the vibrant,... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRango813 December 25, 2012

I LOVED it!!

This movie blew me away. I already knew most of the songs, and had listened to the album, so I expected something great. Boy, was I wrong! This movie isn't... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 10, 2013

Just some minor scenes, but its AWESOME!

I'm 11 and I saw this movie last weekend. I really recommend it for kids 11 and up. We're mature enough to handle some of the scenes. The only thing I... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in 1800s France, LES MISERABLES is a faithful adaptation of the massively popular stage show -- which is based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo. The basic story centers on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a fugitive who's wanted for breaking parole after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread (and then trying to escape). The dogged and misguidedly by-the-book Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) is at his heels, even though it's been years since Valjean left prison. Meanwhile, the former convict has dedicated himself to helping others -- especially Cosette, the young daughter of doomed factory worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who loses her job and turns to prostitution in desperation. After Fantine's death, Valjean raises Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) as his own until they're both caught up in the June Rebellion of 1832 in Paris, when Valjean encounters Javert again and must decide whether to continue to live on the run or take a stand. Cosette, meanwhile, has fallen for the young revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne) -- but little does he know that Eponine (Samantha Barks), the daughter of the crooked innkeepers who had initially raised Cosette on Fantine's behalf, is enamored of him. Love and duty are intertwined in this searing epic about faith, forgiveness, class struggles, politics, poverty, and change.

Is it any good?

From the first scene, Les Miserables is both majestic and brutal, the beauty of the cinematography and the music achingly juxtaposed against the cruelty and savagery of its characters' lives. Expect your emotions to be wrenched this way and that; the actors -- especially Jackman, Hathaway, and Crowe -- have thrown everything on the table, making for a movie you won't easily forget. Director Tom Hooper had the actors sing live as the cameras rolled, and it was a brilliant decision, capturing the rawness of performances that sought to elevate the actors beyond warbling iconic songs in tune. You can feel them living the lyrics, sampling them as if they've never been sung before.

No wonder the film has earned so many accolades; this one's worth the buzz. Crowe's craggy, rock-star voice at times feels at odds with the rest of the cast's style, but his deeply felt Javert persuades. In the end, he seems utterly lost and broken, and we feel for him. At times you wish the camera would pull back a little, or that the score could quiet down a little to let a moment just be -- there's virtue in the plainly staged scene, too -- but there are few of those, thankfully. Les Miserables is a wonder.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What is it saying about faith and love? About justice and duty? Why is Javert so determined to take Valjean back to prison? Valjean clearly becomes a noble person, even though he's also a fugitive and a lawbreaker. Does he deserve to go to back to jail, as the law requires?

  • Why are the students so passionate about their cause? Do you agree with them that it's one worth dying for? Have you ever felt that strongly about anything?

  • How well do film actors perform in a movie that requires them to sing almost every line of dialogue? Why do you think filmmakers cast mostly movie stars instead of veteran stage actors?

  • For fans of the stage musical -- which version do you prefer, and why? What was changed? What was missing -- or added? Why do you think the filmmakers made the changes they did?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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