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Les Miserables – The Best Movie I’ve Ever Seen

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Until this week, Casablanca was my all-time favorite film. Les Miserables has now taken its place. I’m not a film critic – I go to a movie not to criticize, but to enjoy it for what it is: entertainment.

I go to see scenes and hear dialogue and songs I haven’t seen or heard before; I go for the depth of raw emotion – whether testosterone-fueled righteous bravado from movies like Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket or for the heartbreaking, all-conquering love seen in that bane of all that have testicles, The Notebook.

Les Miserables has its faults, the foremost of which were Russell Crowe’s voice and his character’s suicide. But let’s not forget the high points such as Hugh Jackman’s mastery as Jean Valjean and Anne Hathaway’s emotionally devastating (and Oscar-demanding) role as Fantine.

I admit I’ve never seen the play nor read the book by Victor Hugo, but to me, Les Miz is to film what Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is to books: the very best, the standard against which all others must be measured. Why? It’s the story. Les Miz is at its base a meditation on love in most of its forms:

  • The love between mother and child
  • The love between step-parent and child
  • Young love
  • Unrequited love
  • Love between those who survived combat together
  • Love of country
  • Love that one feels in an intense religious experience

But there’s yet more, for Les Miz also explores the forever-joined concepts of duty and honor, which define the actions of Jean Valjean and Javert from a hopeless beginning borne of a perversity of justice to an end defined by a grand reversal of fates, justice and rewards for all as honor strictly demanded. And incredibly, against all odds, it all works!

I fancy myself a writer, but just the concept, the mere prospect of working all those emotional facets together into a story is daunting to say the least (and far beyond what skill I may claim to possess). And then, to work all of that into less than three hours of film? Why, the very thought of it is ludicrous!, but there it is.

When you sit there and watch the film (or, I assume, the play or read the book), remember that you are witnessing storytelling greatness, brilliance that stands at the very summit of the art. Not everyone will love the film, but to anyone who has ever tried to work wrenching depths of emotion and monumental heights of honor and duty into a story and then labored in utter frustration over what to cut away for the sake of hated-and-be-damned brevity, Les Miserables is the very best film there is.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Myra

    I completely agree with you and I recommend that you read the novel. That depth of emotion and great story telling come directly from one of the greatest books ever written…even without the beautiful music. If you can make it through the 1400 pages it will be well worth the trip! You can always play the Les Miserables soundtrack while you read 😉

  • RooMcGoo
  • Kerry Beadman

    I agree too!! A beautiful movie!! While Russell ‘s voice did seem to struggle at times, I still thought he was terrific! Can’t understand why you were confused about his suicide though, as it was part of the original novel!

  • Nadine

    Never seen the play or read the novel; but I must say, aside from RC’s singing which can be forgiven, Les Miz the film is an epic! Hugh Jackman was outstanding! He can have the best actor in all award-giving ceremony! Anne Hathaway is superb!

  • So is it “art” or “entertainment” – you seem to label it both. The “best film” you’ve seen – fine, your opinion. The “very best film there is” – hyperbole.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chad –

    I am entitled to my opinion, you know, and I admitted I’m no critic. That said, I am a writer and as I pointed out in the article, the inclusion of so many facets of love, not to mention the power of honor and duty, in one novel is daunting by any measure, but to include all those, each as a major factor in a film of less than three hours, and to make it work at such a level – that’s flat-out incredible.

    So…hyperbole? No, I don’t think so.

  • Susan Silva

    Still reeling from seeing the movie yesterday. Your thoughts on the movie are spot on, yet may I add that it is an amazing display of what Redemption and Grace are truly about. One’s life can truly be redeemed and used for love’s purpose when we accept the grace bestowed on us. And when we can not accept either the redemption of the grace we too like Javert will only see the law as powerful, and if law is all we have, there truly is no real life. Thus his choice of ending his.
    Such an amazing movie. I will see it again and again.

  • Diana

    I agree with you! Best movie ever. I could watch it a hundred times. Thank you.

  • joojie71

    Nice article! Les Mis has become my favorite movie of all time, as well. I’ve been obsessed with it since 12/25, and have seen it 23 times. After seeing it so much, I have to disagree with you on Russell Crowe. Is his voice Broadway quality? No, but he stays on key…he sings in the first song with anger, and watching him as he realizes his beliefs are false (and he cannot handle that!) was wonderful to watch, but painful. As he sang in the end that there was no where to turn, I cry in my heart…oh yes, Javert, God is there for you waiting to redeem you as he did Jean Valjean. Unfortunately, Les Mis won’t win the Best Picture award, which is too bad and makes me very sad…and Hugh won’t win. I do not understand the voters at all. DDL was good in Lincoln, but what Hugh did with Jean Valjean was incredible and timeless. March 22, when the DVD comes out, can’t come soon enough!

  • Joanna Rellou

    I’m glad you loved he movie that much. I also understand why you haven’t read the book. It’s massive and some people call it boring. I personally thought the movie was an honest attempt to summarise the book well. Let me assure you, that the movie isn’t half as good as the book. Not even remotely close. So my advice is read the book, the movie will then seem mediocre to you.