Les Misérables (2012) Movie Review

uma thurman in a scene from Les Miserables movie

Title: Les Misérables
Year: 1998
Genre: Crime, Drama, History
Play time: 2h 14min
Director: Bille August
Screenwriters: Victor Hugo
Starring: Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman

Hugo’s Les Miserables Comes to the Cinema

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 – A Musical Turned into a Crime Movie

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.

The Never Meant Love

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.

A Cheap Ending to a Great Novel

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.

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