Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Les Miserables (book and movie)

Author:  Victor Hugo  (book)
              Tom Hooper  (movie)

Rating:  **  (2 stars out of 3 possible for the book, "B")
            **  (2 stars out of 3 possible for the movie, "B")

Audience:  16 years and up

First of all, understand the book is almost 1500 pages long and I haven't even finished it! It is divided into 5 sections, each of which is around 300 pages.  A reasonable goal is to read a section every month or so and take a few weeks break before forging on.  Although, I know one of my friends (a mother of 3, including a 9 month old) finished the entire book in one reading, utilizing maximum library renewals and only a 2-day late fee!

Reading the first section will give you a fine background for the musical or movie, as well as insight into Hugo's themes and philosophies.

I liked the movie better than I expected.  It was well-executed, extremely well-acted and reasonably well-sung.  A lot of reviewers seemed ultra-picky about Russell Crowe's singing ability, but I felt he passed.  Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried (young Cosette) and Samantha Barks (Eponine) were outstanding.  Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter shined as the evil, yet comic-relieving Thenardiers.  Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche was both entertaining and heart-breaking.

Speaking of heart-breaking, this movie really is an emotion roller coaster as you consider the fate of Fantine and the potential fate of Cosette, to say nothing of the heroic actions of Jean Valjean.  The abandonment of young Cosette and Fantine's desperate situation are particularly disturbing scenes, yet timely as we continue to consider human trafficking in our modern world.  It was also moving to visualize both the plight and transformation of Jean Valjean.

Some of the scenes approached "R" rating, so I recommend taking only mature teens (juniors, seniors) to the movie.  Certainly appropriate for teens who are capable of AP English and AP History classwork.

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