Les Miserables


Somewhere, Victor Hugo must be rolling in his grave. Les Miserables, the towering 1000+ page novel and the unimaginably popular musical is filled with poignancy, power and high drama. There have been tens of movie adaptations. The latest, by director Bille August, is a non-musical offering, that while well-cast is missing the power of other versions of the story.

Les Miserables is meant to be a musical. With the beautiful songs, it brings power to the picture. It is the story of Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson, wonderful and sincere), a man who served 19 years in jail for stealing bread. When he gets out he assumes a false identity and becomes a respected mayor. But Inspector Javert (an over-the-top Geoffrey Rush) recognizes him from prison and wants to denounce him, but has no proof. Valjean, however is forced to confess, and Javert wants to hunt him down.

Menwhile, Valjean falls in love with Fantine (Uma Thurman, stunning), who is dying. She has a daughter named Cosette who is living with cruel foster parents and Valjean has to go get her — without getting caught. And as if that wasn’t enough, this is set against the French Revolution.

As anyone who has seen the play knows this story has potential to be dramatic and powerful. But without song, no matter how well cast, the story is nothing. It’s just not as interesting, not as involving, not as compelling. Despite some great performances, especially from Neeson and the very talented Claire Danes as the young Cosette, the movie fails. It turns out to be a major Hollywood bore, one that is a chore, instead of a pleasure to watch.

Also, the ending is extremely cheap — I won’t give it away, but it doesn’t follow the book. The film looks great — they spard no expense on the scenery but it can’t help. Les Miserables turns out to be pretty terrible, almost an insult to Hugo’s achievement.

-- Eugene Novikov

Starring: , , ,
Directed by:


  1. Dani says:

    I don’t mean to be nit-picky or anything, but this movie came out in 1998. And it was set against the June Revolt in 1832, not the French Revolution of the 18th century. Just FYI.

  2. Brainslks says:

    This review has much more wrong with it than the film did. He readily admits the skill of the actors, (I, in fact, would call them towering performances) The production values and directing are first rate. So, what’s his problem? Was Victor Hugo thinking Broadway musical when he wrote perhaps France’s greatest contribution to modern literature? GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!

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