OK. So you may not like musicals. I can understand that. I’ve seen some doozies in my time.
That may be why you haven’t seen Les Miserables. At least that’s what I have heard from some of my friends.
So let me try to convince you that you need to give it a chance.
Don’t know anything about the plot behind Les Miserables? I’ll be honest, I lived 40 years of my life without reading the book or seeing the play/movies. I went in to the theater with a completely open mind and unformed opinion. Now that I have seen the movie, I’m working my way through the book and hope to have it completed by the end of the summer in my spare time. My fourteen year old has gotten farther than I have in the book. She loved this movie, too. I’d say it would make a much better “mandatory reading” item than a lot of the garbage they feed our public school high-schoolers these days. But then, with a Christian reference and moral thread, I can see why our schools have abandoned it for more “agenda-pushing” literature.
Even the Catholic Church at one time banned Les Miserables. As late as 2006, it was listed as being not suitable for children and even teenagers. I’d definitely advise you to read/watch it before your kids do, to determine whether you feel they are able to handle the material.
Here’s the story in a nutshell:
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) – a man sent to suffer in prison for decades in 19th century France because he stole a loaf of bread to prevent his sister’s child from starvation – is given parole. As he is mistreated and finds suffering in the free world, he seeks refuge during winter at a church, where he decides to steal their precious metal tools and objects. Upon getting caught by lawmakers, he is pardoned by the priest – who then gives him these items as a means to fund a new life, dedicated to the Lord. Jean turns to God and becomes a changed man, breaking his parole to live under a new name as a factory owner and mayor in another district of France. His parole officer – the police man Javert (Russel Crowe), a legalist who had been mistreated and raised by criminals and was a strict and harsh overseer during Valjean’s prison term, searches relentlessly for Jean Valjean – making it his mission to recapture him and see that “justice” is served.
When one of his factory workers, a poor woman named Fantine (Anne Hathaway) working to send money to her child, is fired and falls in to sordid society in search of financial stability, Jean tries to save her – believing it is his personal duty as a moral man. When Fantine dies, leaving her orphan child, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) in the hands of corrupt, heathen brothel owners (Sacha Baron Cohen & Helena Bonham Carter), Jean Valjean finds her, pays them a reward to give custody of her to him, and disappears to raise her as his own child.
As Cosette becomes a woman, she is found by a revolutionary (Eddie Redmayne) and falls instantly in love with him. Her true love’s secret admirer (Samantha Barks) not only helps him discover Cosette’s whereabouts, but she takes a bullet to prevent him from being shot. Cosette’s father, upon find out that his daughter is in love, puts his own life and secret identity in jeopardy to spare her beloved from harm and preserve their future. Javert sneaks in to the revolutionary blockade as a spy and is found out by the resistance. Valjean spares his life, extending forgiveness to him – even though it was sure to cost him his freedom and the truth about his past life will become clear to Cosette, possibly ruining the relationship he treasures most.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment describes the story as “Victor Hugo’s tale of broken dreams, passion, sacrifice and redemption,” and say it “surprises with an undeniable Christian message”. It won three Academy Awards. The cinematography was beautifully done.
I urge you to watch the trailer and see this movie for yourself. I forced my husband to sit through it – and although he cringed through the first half of the movie because of the singing – he admitted that the story was beautiful and deep… and worth telling. He told me he would have much rather seen it as a regular film and not a musical, but I was so used to the singing by the middle of the movie that it was hardly noticeable due to the depth of the story. There were moments where the singing was amazing – especially the parts where the characters were all singing a different part of the same song – at the same time – telling their individual feelings and stories.
My teenage son, who I forced to watch this on DVD recently and is never emotional about movies – CRIED at the end. He then THANKED me for making him watch it, saying “it was life-changing”.
It certainly put object-lesson teeth on the messages of Christianity and how they would apply to REAL PEOPLE in real life situations. It showed the depth of despair and the gift of hope and redemption. It showed the triumph of the human spirit and the strength of friendship. It showed the beauty of forgiveness and the power of a life changed by an encounter with God.
Yes there are dark and inappropriate moments in this movie, but the story is certainly worth sharing with your older children who are mature enough. Parental discretion is advised. The scenes I am referring to are during Fontine’s brief role in the beginning of the film, and the scenes involving the brothel owners. There is also violence such as the gunshot deaths of revolutionaries and the suicide by the parole officer (he jumps to his death from a bridge). Even with these scenes, the movie’s depth and the contrast between evil and good are vivid and easy to distinguish. The Christian message shines through on a dark set… just as it does in a dark world. Hope, regardless of how bleak your circumstance is!
At the end of the movie, one of my favorite lines is “To love another person is to see the face of God.” There’s a sermon or two just waiting inside that little phrase… Here’s where my heart went when I heard that line:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
1 John 4:19-21
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
1 Peter 2:11-13
Check out the trailer here for yourself. I was thrilled to review this movie because I knew after seeing it at the theater I was going to purchase it when it came out at the store. So now that it is on Blu-ray and DVD – you can get a copy, too!
I’ll leave you with a favorite quote from the book (p. 560) : “Many great deeds are performed in the small struggles of life.” So true! The little things and moments are often the most important. You never know how you might change someone else’s life with your kindness.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this Blu-Ray/DVD to present my honest opinion of the movie (which I had already seen and loved). I was not compensated for this post. The small movie cover photo is an Amazon link… just to tell them I sent you! If you purchase it through my link, I will get a few pennies eventually towards free books for my homeschoolers.