Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: 'Les Miserables'

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) in Les Miserables

Rating: A+

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the praises of Les Mis!

Seriously, I can't stop singing.

This soundtrack will be stuck in your head forever — and most people I know are okay with that.

I walked into the movie theatre with little to no knowledge of the beloved musical, Les Miserables. But I walked out of the theatre a changed person. 

I still struggle to find words to describe just how epic and moving the story is. The fact that the film is flawless just increases its potency. 

Its quality is nearly perfect, so I won't spend much time talking about it. The casting was perfect — I was so impressed by the singing abilities of the actors, not to mention their raw and deeply moving performances. The cinematography is larger-than-life but still very realistic. The costumes and makeup were flawless, and the score? No words. That's all I have say about that.

But I do want to draw on the moral themes in the story, which is why it has transcended time and become a classic.

Les Mis is about the human experience. Sin and virtue. Love and hate, justice and mercy, forgiveness and redemption...but ultimately, it's a story of love, with many as many layers as there are characters. It glorifies the greatest love — sacrifice. I find that the stories that strike my soul the most are the ones about real loving, about doing the right thing, even when it’s hard. Let me explain.

This love story is told through the ex-convict Jean Valjan (who I think is similar to St. Peter!) Valjan, after stealing from a bishop who helped him, encounters shame in his misery and sin. Something we can all relate to. He becomes a hero to us, though, because he chooses to hope. He realizes when the bishop tells him, "You must use the silver to become an honest man...I have saved your soul for God," that he is capable of greatness. And he accepts that call at any cost.

His story hits home because we are all the miserables. We all encounter, at some point, our sin, our misery, our weakness. We have two choices when we face misery: we can let it transform our lives so we live to love others, or we can wallow in the despair and let it destroy us, as Inspector Javer did when faced with the same choice as Valjan. (Much like Judas!) 

Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and Jean Valjan (Hugh Jackman)
One of the greatest strengths of Les Miserables is that it doesn't hide the gritty grime. It doesn’t hide the struggle or sin, because sin is a reality we all must face. But it doesn’t let you rest there — we are reminded through each character that although we are miserable, there is always hope of redemption and that we are created for greatness. We will become great if we let love change us.

Are we up for that challenge? Because letting love transform us calls us on mission to love in return. While I watched the film, I was hit by depiction of poverty in the story, set in the slums of France. It was a sobering reminder of how often I pass the poor and homeless on the street without “looking down”. We, “the righteous hurry past, they don’t hear the little ones crying.”

Les Mis is a reminder, then, that man was made to love. We are called to forget ourselves and to notice the needs of those around us, to respond with generosity. Even forgiving those who we think should be avenged. We are called to be merciful. That's what makes Valjan a hero. And that's how we can become heroic, too. When we love, we encounter God within others. “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Les Miserables is mind-blowing, to put it lightly. I'm not ashamed to say that I've seen it in theaters three times. And I wouldn't object to seeing it more, because I get something new out of it each time. 

Bottom line is, every soul should see this movie. If you haven't seen it already, GO. If you have, go again. Every once in a while, a golden movie comes along that is at once entertaining and inspiring. This is one of those movies.