Les Miserables

 
(i)

 

Excellent film adaptation of gritty, heartbreaking musical.
Academy AwardGolden Globe
  • Review Date: December 23, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Musical
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 157 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2012
DVD release date:March 22, 2013
Cast:Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe
Director:Tom Hooper
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Musical
Topics:Book characters, History, Music and sing-along
Run time:157 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements
Awards:Academy Award, Golden Globe

This review of Les Miserables was written by

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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, gritty Paris of the early 1800s in a story of sin, redemption, love, violence, tragedy, and ultimately, peace and hope. The story revolves around the redemption of convict Jean Valjean, who, after his life is changed by a single act of forgiveness, struggles to raise the daughter of a poor prostitute while he evades Inspector Javert, who hunts Valjean through the years of his life. The wildly successful musical is even more emotional onscreen. I've been a fan for years, but I didn't feel the epic power of the story and music until I saw this film. It's heartbreaking to watch some scenes of suffering, but ultimately the story revolves around one central message: "to love another person is to see the face of God." The movie is fantastic for teens and their parents. Violence is the biggest concern here. Many main characters are killed, including a suicide and a young boy who is shot twice. Blood is shown during shooting and on dead bodies. Several women are hit or otherwise harmed by men. Sexual references are frequent in the first third of the film, during which a main theme is prostitution. A main character sells her body out of desperation, and the end of a sexual act with a client is shown with some sexual movement but no nudity, and is followed by a wrenching ballad of broken hopes and dreams. Many prostitutes are shown trying to seduce customers. Casual lyrics and dialogue reference erections, sexually transmitted diseases, and other adult themes, but nothing is glamorized. Language is mild, with the harshest word being a single use of "s**t." The movie is truly a life-changer. It preaches that sacrifice and forgiveness should fill everyone's life and motivate our actions. The main character lives his life for the betterment of others, and other characters redeem themselves and give to others consistently. In recent times full of violence and loss, Les Miserables isn't just flawless filmmaking, though it is certainly perfect. It's a beacon of hope in darkness.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
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 great at all; it's THE BEST! Seriously, I LOVED this movie, all of its 2 hr 41 minutes of it. There are some things I think may draw a red flag, but they are part of the plot. The first one that comes is that Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is kicked out of work and becomes a prostitute to pay for her child, Cosette. There is some of this depicted, such as her first time sleeping with a man for money, and a song, "Lovely Ladies", is all about prostitutes. The other thing is that *Spoiler Alert* a 12-year-old boy, Gavaroche, is shot by soilders. Besides those minor things, the only maybe negative I can say is, bring your tissues, this is a real tear-jerker! The ending made everyone sniff once or twice in my theater. This is my new favorite movie and will DEFINITELY see it again. EDIT: I have now seen the movie 9 times. I love it that much! It still makes me cry a ton. My dad saw some of it and he didn't like it (he doesn't like emotional stuff/movie musicals), but I still recommend it to everybody!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
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 performances that a stage production cannot show. I won't go into all the details of the actual movie as other reviews already have done so, but anyone who knows the story of Victor Hugo's novel and the time and period it takes place in should know it has to be gritty to fully convey the struggles of the period as well as classic themes of love, redemption, loss, faith, poverty, class warfare, and hope. As for the reviewer who said read the book instead, my son read the book at age 12 (he has a love of history and had seen the musical on Broadway and I felt he was ready to tackle Mr. Hugo's prose) and his only comment was he wished they could have included ValJean's escape from the convent in the movie but realized the book was over 1000 pages long. I think as always you have to know your child when taking them to a movie such as this, but even the scenes of prostitution etc. will go over younger viewers heads in that the "sex" is not overt. Moreover, there are many excellent themes to discuss.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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