Les Miserables: a dichotomy of grace

les miserables

Hey y’all, today I’m talking about the iconic musical Les Miserables because this month, for some reason, had content relating to detectives. So why not cover a musical about a detective relentlessly pursuing a criminal on the run? I haven’t covered a musical in a bit so this should be fun. Warning: spoilers ahead and if you choose to watch this for the first time, tear warning because Les Miserables translates to the miserable.

What’s Les Miserables?

Les Miserables is a musical based on the famous book by Victor Hugo. It focuses on the life of convict Jean Valjean and his journey of grace. Throughout the musical, you see how he grows from one of hate to one of love. It starts with him being released from prison, frustrated. Because of his papers, he will never be paid the same as an “honest” man, has to report to wherever the government tells him because he’s on parole, etc.

After he comes to God, tears up his papers, and a quick time skip, he finds himself the mayor of a successful town. Single mother Fantine works in one of his factories and is wrongly fired for having a child. Valjean finds her after she turns to prostitution to find funds for her (not really) sick daughter Cosette. He vows to Fantine to care for Cosette. Javert, the detective who released him, conveniently found out his secret identity and shows up. They duke it out, Valjean wins and books it out of there. He finds a mistreated Cosette with the Thernadiers, con-men disguised as innkeepers. They have a daughter, Eponine.

Time for another time skip, Cosette is grown up now and conveniently meets the love of her life, Marius. Unfortunately, a revolution is brewing and Marius and his friends are a part of it. One of his friends is Eponine and she’s secretly in love with Marius. After a lot of pining, setting up the revolution, saving Marius, and death the movie ends with Marius and Cosette getting married and the deaths of Javert and Valjean.

Comments while watching Les Miserables the movie

  • Iconic first song
  • I bet they were going for a chant-like work song but the singing is 😬
  • Prepare to hear this interlude for the rest of the movie
  • If Hugh Jackman is a cello, with loads of vibrato, Russel Crowe is a trumpet that can only do one volume and hits hard on every note 
  • Beautiful scenery 
    • Same with the priest, lots of vibrato
  • Man for people who don’t know Les Mis, it must be confusing changing narrators and time period
  • Why do all these ladies have it out for Fantine? There’s no reason for it
  • It always bugged me how they swapped the lines and how they randomly speak instead of sing. It’s awkward 
  • If they added this awkward singing between Javert and Valjean, it could have been spoken.
  • Forgive me sir I would not dare and they cut the rest of it? 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️
  • Why is “lovely ladies” sung better than at the end of the day 
  • Anne Hathaway actually getting her hair cut in this scene is amazing and I loved her with short hair 
  • Her performance for I dreamed a dream deserved all the awards from a cinemaic lens. 
  • The original Fantine x creep is so much better 
    • Crowe and the creep really kill the scene 
  • it’s a nice touch that he kept the silver candlesticks
  • Fantine’s last song seems changed and not for the better 
  • An epic fight between Javert and Valjean. My only complaint is they don’t finish the song. 

Enter Cosette

  • My 8th-grade choir did castle on a cloud because this movie had just come out. What nostalgia.  
  • Helena Boehm Carter is perfect casting for her role
  • Master of the house is the second-best song of the movie so far
  • Colette Cosette
  • Good thing he was an ex-con so he could see through the bs
  • Stars is a Lil better at 1.5 speed
    • Actually, all of Javeret’s songs are better this way
  • Gavroche isn’t bad 
  • Aaron Tveit, 😍 I think this was my first exposure to him and then I found next to normal which is a great musical
  • Eponine 😍 
  • Thank you for hiring Broadway actors
  • Not going tho lie, Marius’ voice is the weakest in red black ABC cafe
  • I remember being weirded out by Amanda Seyfried being Cosette because all I saw was Karen from mean girls. I hadn’t seen Mamma Mia yet
  • On my own was every jr high girl’s scorned love musical song
  • Cosette, you can’t marry a man you just met

If you’re a fan of the barricade boys, don’t get attached 

  • Obviously, I hear the people sing, it’s a musical movie 🤣🤣
  • It’s raining furniture 🎶
  • The barricade has coffins…foreshadowing 
  • They cut Gavroche’s song short 🥺
  • A little fall of rain- you’ve hurt me so much that this fatal gunshot wound is nothing comparatively 
  • Poor Gavroche watching his sister die 
  • Gavroche should have heeded Valjean’s warning
  • Did they not do their research on where to put the barricade 
  • Is the eye in the background of “bring him home” supposed to be symbolic of the eye of God
  • “I met Marius 5 min ago but I totally approve of him marrying my adopted daughter.” -Valjean
  • To the soldier who shot an unarmed child, may you feel the weight of your actions. 
  • From here it’s a massacre 😭
  • “Javert’s suicide” mimics Valjean’s soliloquy so well
  • “Empty chairs at empty tables” is one of my favorite songs of the musical but not necessarily in the movie 
  • Cosette is such a sweetheart 
  • Valjean, you aren’t even going to stay for your daughter’s wedding 
  • Ironic the Thernandiers survived but their children didn’t and they do not seem to grieve
  • Just saying, time progression is done really well in this movie 
  • The finale song with all the dead on the barricade 😭

The dichotomy of grace

One of the reasons why this musical is interesting is Javert and Valjean’s relationship. Javert is a detective, bound to uphold the law. He feels that once you’ve broken the law, it’s the same as falling from grace–that they must be terrible people and always will be. In “stars” he talks about the pressure he feels to be perfect in order to uphold the law.

On the other hand, there’s Valjean, a man who spent 19 years as a “slave to the law” for stealing a loaf of bread out of starvation. When Javert and Valjean first meet, he is bitter and angry over his extended imprisonment. Then they meet again after he becomes mayor and Valjean is a changed man even if Javert refuses to see it at the time. When they meet again at the barricade and Javert’s life is in Valjean’s hands he is still convinced the man will kill him since he’s an ex-con. But he doesn’t. He spares Javert’s life. Valjean also has his own issues with grace, thinking he is unworthy because of his past.

And thus the dichotomy. Valjean is Javert’s contrasting idea that you can mess up, and become a better person. You don’t have to be perfect to do good. He also serves as a reminder of Javert’s failure for not being able to bring him in and because of the formerly mentioned behavior, he feels conflicted in doing so. I think he also sees himself in Valjean. Javert is Valjean’s reminder that he will never be able to escape his past nor be able to make up for what he did.

I think “the confrontation” summarizes their feelings well:

Another version I like

So what’s your favorite version?

The 25th-anniversary concert with Samantha Barks as Eponine, Nick Jonas as Marius, Alfie Boe as Valjean, Lea Salonga as Fantine, and Ramin Karimloo as Enjorlas. Ramin Karimloo was once the Phantom of the opera, and his version of “do you hear the people sing” is stunning😍😍.

Do you know how much talent and control it takes to make something this beautiful?

Sorry, “do you hear the people sing” is like “music of the night” for me, I’m very particular about how it’s sung because they are songs that deserve to be sung beautifully. Nick Jonas as Marius might be a surprising choice but I think he does a good job. His voice has the naivete Marius should have characterization-wise. Samantha Barks is so good, they brought her in to do the Les Mis movie which was a great decision. If Lea Salonga sounds familiar, it should because she’s the singing voice of Mulan and Jasmine.

Final Thoughts on Les Miserables:

Thank you for reading Les Miserables: a dichotomy of grace, I appreciate it. Comment below what your favorite take of Les Miserables is. If you like my content, consider subscribing to my mailing list and if you want another musical movie review, click here.

You can find the full 25th anniversary concert on YT!
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