Movie review: Les Miserables
Finally, the movie I've been waiting for for 25 years has come out. Les Miserables, the movie of the musical is here, and it's a cracker.
I first heard the songs of the original Broadway musical on my housemother's cassette player at boarding school in 1988. I was smitten immediately, and listened avidly to the full sound track with the other Les Mis fan at school, Amy Jo.
With no chance to see the stage show, living in Pakistan, "I've got to read the book," I thought, so I committed to the over 1600 pages of Victor Hugo's masterpiece (alright, so I skipped a little bit of the war history... can you blame me?) at the age of 16 and came out wiser, richer and a lot more knowledgeable.
I think I first saw the musical itself in London at the age of 18, with friends, in terrible seats. But it was still wonderful and I continued to listen to the soundtrack for years until finally the tapes died a natural death.
"Why won't they make a movie out of it?" I asked, over and over, and finally, they did. My daughter (also a big fan of the music I've played to her) and I went to see it yesterday. We'll buy it, of course, when it comes out on DVD, because it is wonderful, with a stellar cast, strong performances, beautiful photography and of course, that story, of redemption, forgiveness and transformation, of law versus grace, of the beauty God sees in the forgotten, and the way out of sin.
Performances: Hugh Jackman wins, if it's a contest. He's just perfect as Jean ValJean and his voice soars and rumbles exactly as it should. Plus he has kind eyes. I loved Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and that young freckly guy, Eddie Redmayne as Marius. He was a wonderful surprise, with a terrific voice and a beautifully intense screen presence. We giggled when we saw Helena Bonham Carter teamed up with none other than Sasha Baron Cohen as the comic villains the Thenardiers. I liked the girl who played Eponine, but my daughter disagreed, saying she needed something different in her voice. We both agreed we would have liked to have seen Miley Cyrus in that role - if she could do it seriously.
Perhaps the only letdown, and it was small, was the fact that while Russell Crowe is a wonderful actor and was perfect for the rigid, law-abiding Javert in most ways, he just didn't have the strength in his voice to carry one of my favourite songs, Stars. His suicide scene was a little bit of a disappointment, although he made a mighty thud when he hit the river.
If you've never understood the gospel of grace that Christians keep talking about, and instead think religion is all about 'being good' and keeping laws, you should see Les Miserables for a beautiful example of grace that transforms and transcends law.
(I mentioned my Les Mis fan friend, Amy Jo. In my high school yearbook, the year we said final goodbyes, she wrote out a quote from the final song of Les Mis: to love another person is to see the face of God. Amy Jo was a person who did love other people - and she did see the face of God. Tragically, she died young - at 28, leaving a new born baby behind. I vowed that whenever I heard that song, I would pray for her child, so yesterday, a prayer went out for her little girl, now a teenager. I hope she enjoys the movie too.)