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Les Miserables: Highlights from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that like Victor Hugo's immortal novel, the musical version of Les Miserables tells a heartbreaking story in which people are forced into dire circumstances by poverty. Characters suffer from starvation, cold, imprisonment, and cruelty; some women must turn to prostitution to survive. Because the film is operatic, these situations are revealed in detail in the soundtrack. Songs also mention drinking wine, gin, and brandy; women are called prostitutes and whores, and other suggestive language is used. There are also a few curse words ("s--t," "pissed," "hell"). But most distressing are the complex, agonizing problems caused by wretched poverty in a society where citizens have no choice but to resort to crime, yet the rule of law is unflinchingly enforced.
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What's the story?
In the operatic musical version of Victor Hugo's epic novel LES MISERABLES, the songs tell the story of Valjean, the good-hearted convict/fugitive; poor abused Fantine, who must leave her illegitimate baby girl in the hands of charlatans; rigid, dogmatic Javert; and sweet young lovers, Marius and Cosette. Listeners will not get all of the plot from listening to these songs, but they will get a feeling for the characters and their plights, as well as a sense of the complex problems caused by extreme poverty in a society where citizens have no choice but to resort to crime, yet the rule of law is unflinchingly enforced.
Is it any good?
The Les Miserables music is extremely affecting -- alternately heartbreaking, shocking, uplifting, and occasionally funny. It's true that not all of the performers in the film are brilliant singers. Russell Crowe could not have a career in opera. However, he and his co-stars are all good enough singers, and great enough actors, to carry these songs off extremely well. Anne Hathaway in particular sings with deep feeling that takes songs far beyond where just her lovely voice can go. Anyone who loves the film will definitely treasure this album.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about soundtracks. How do they enhance the movie viewing experience? Would you buy this soundtrack if you weren't a fan of the movie?
Does it engage you more or less that the story is told in song? How does the experience compare to reading the novel?
What message do these songs offer regarding the effects of poverty?
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