Nearly everything that follows is a spoiler.
Les Miserables was nearly three hours long, and there is no way I can fully review everything that happened. Instead, I will recap it via song.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) stole some bread and has been imprisoned in post-revolution France, answering the age old question: what would you do if your son’s at home, cryin’ all alone on the bedroom floor, cause he’s hungry? You steal a loaf of bread and have to answer to Russell Crowe/Javert for the rest of your life. In this song, we establish that Hugh Jackman has the voice of a Broadway angel and that Russell Crowe must have fantastic blackmail material on Tom Hooper because a solid “nope” on his singing voice.
(It’s not that bad, it’s just…this is THE musical. You would expect one of the most recognized roles in the world to be filled by someone who has a fantastic voice. Lest we already forget the Gerard Butler/Phantom of the Opera casting fiasco already.)
VALJEAN ARRESTED/VALJEAN FORGIVEN
After they all stop singing, Valjean is released on parole and travels the French countryside looking for work. Ain’t nobody going to hire a convict though, so he seeks refuge in a church. Since he’s the world’s worst criminal (honestly, who gets sent to the French version of that-prison-that-Bane-came-from for stealing bread?), he tries to steal silver from the kind bishop and gets caught. The bishop takes pity, and lets him have the silver so he can get back on his feet.
Fun Fact! The man who plays the bishop is the original Broadway Jean Valjean. We have come full circle.
WHAT HAVE I DONE
Valjean confesses his sins via song and decides that he should both be a better man, and also a totally different dude. He rips up his parole papers and starts life anew under a different name. I see why he thinks this is a good idea. He’s got hella silver money and the likelihood that someone is going to devote their entire life to tracking down a fugitive bread thief is low. If only he knew.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
Time has passed, people still have face sores, are poor. Valjean is now Monsieur Madeline, factory owner and mayor. Here at the factory we meet Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and a bunch of jealous bitches who can’t get over the fact that she has an illegitimate child (Cosette). They rat her out to the creepy foreman who is mostly upset that Fantine won’t sleep with him (because she once slept with someone else?), so he fires her. She is thrown on the street and life gets way worse. MEANWHILE Javert is back as a police inspector? I don’t know. He kind of recognizes Hugh Jackman but shrugs it off.
Beautiful Fantine heads down to the docks where all the shady people hang out to sell her jewelry. She needs all the money she can get to send to Cosette, who she has left with some “innkeepers.” A sea hag persuades her to sell her hair. Then her teeth get pulled. BOOM. OSCAR FOR ANNE HATHAWAY. Then, despite her hairlessness/bleeding gums, the sea folk decide that she would be an A+ prostitute.
All the other hookers sing a rousing group number about hooking and it’s fantastic. Everyone has a cockney accent even though we’re in France. It doesn’t matter. Fantine gives in to peer pressure.
I DREAMED A DREAM
I will never forgive Anne Hathaway for the atrocity that is the movie One Day, but goddamn does she sell this number. It’s not as pretty as a Broadway rendition would be, but it’s filled with emotion and a desperation that’s only possible from someone who literally just became a prostitute.
There was a lot of hate going around about Hathaway’s voice when the teaser trailer dropped, but I don’t see any problems. She’s lovely. And, as you’ve probably heard 80,000 times, she did this in one continuous take. I can’t walk without tripping.
WHO AM I
Uh oh, Javert sees Hugh Jackman lift a wagon off of a trapped guy and realizes he’s the same convict who did a bunch of heaving lifting years ago. Now he’s on a rage bender and needs to prove his suspicions. Valjean does some more soul-searching and decides he needs to turn himself in.
COME TO ME
Welp, Fantine has consumption. While Valjean is down by the shore giving money to poor people, he runs into Fantine, who rightly yells at him for not telling the foreman to spare her. Now she’s a dying hooker with a helpless child. Here’s another number cementing Anne Hathaway’s Oscar win. She is not afraid to look ugly, and it pays. Her death is haunting, and I am pretty “meh” on the Hathaway front.
AGAIN WITH THE SING-TALKING. AGAIN WITH THE RUSSELL CROWE. I’m not trying to throw Crowe under the bus, because I will admit that I am strangely attracted to him, but he is ruining one of the most important numbers of the show. Anyway, they confront each other. Jackman somehow escapes using the “BRB” excuse to go fetch Cosette – he has promised Fantine that he will care for her young daughter. Javert believes him????
CASTLE ON A CLOUD
Precious street urchin sings like an angel, despite having Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen reprising their Sweeney Todd roles as her guardians.
MASTER OF THE HOUSE
The most fun number, because it’s five solid minutes of HBC and SBC being themselves. As innkeepers, they cheat all their customers, have a grand time, favor their daughter Eponine over their ward Cosette, party hard. It’s so much more upbeat than anything offered so far. Almost refreshing if you forget everyone’s dirt poor and (les) miserable.
People were upset that SBC adopted an exaggerated French accent since nobody else in the movie had one. Nobody ever complained about Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast.
THE THENARDIER WALTZ OF TREACHERY
HBC and SBC haggle with Valjean over Cosette, more sing-talking ensues.
This is a garbage song added to an already three-hour long opera so that the movie can get nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar. It adds absolutely nothing to the plot and doesn’t even borrow from the themes of the rest of the score. It’s just there. It’s about Valjean being excited that he has a cute little daughter. They escape to Paris to start another new life.
Nine years later…everyone is still poor, but much more audibly pissed about it. This is a reprise of Prologue/Work Song that includes precocious child vigilantes. Gavroche is about 10 and can sing Russell Crowe under a table. We also meet a now-grown Eponine, who is living on the streets and has the tiniest waist I have ever seen. Cosette (now Amanda Seyfried) is super bougie now and it’s fabulous. Eponine is pining over rich boy-turned rebel Marius, played by Eddie Redmayne and Eddie Redmayne’s face full of precious adorable freckles. I am now in love with Eddie Redmayne and understand what Eponine’s going through. Her problem is that Marius spots Cosette shimmying down the street and is all “Girl look at that bodayyy.” He is consumed with meeting her.
Motherfucker, Javert is back. I think he’s a police general? I’ve started tuning him out because I can’t deal with Russell Crowe’s unintelligible sing-talking. It’s the same story; Javert spots 24601 in the crowd, and despite nine fucking years passing, his blood thirst has been reignited. He must capture Valjean.
RED AND BLACK
Marius’ boner for Cosette is distracting him from the cause, and his rebel buddies are not amused. They sing a long (but fantastic) song that essentially reminds Marius “bros before hoes.” He is still smitten, but a little more dedicated to their plans of revolution.
IN MY LIFE/A HEART FULL OF LOVE
Eponine, girl. She’s doing that thing where she knows Marius doesn’t love her, but she does favors for him anyway in hopes of changing his mind. Honey. Marius begs her to find out where Cosette lives, he goes to meet up with her and they have this sad, sad three-way love song. Seyfried is a beautiful soprano who can trill like nobody’s business. Yung Luv * ~
SBC and a band of ruffians plan to storm Valjean’s mansion because he’s rich, but Valjean assumes it’s Javert coming back. He backs up Cosette and escapes into the night. This pisses off Cosette, who never gets to go outside, and now has found true love. She writes a note to Marius, that Eponine snatches up and hides in her tiny tiny corset. MORE SING-TALKING
ON MY OWN
Eponine is playing by Broadway vet Samantha Barks, who according to IMDB, has only ever played Eponine in anything. She is amazing, and despite both of my legs being asleep at this point into the movie, I am enraptured by her voice. Remember when it was rumored that Taylor Swift got this role? * Shudders * She is beautiful and pretty well adjusted for having SBC and HBC as parents.
ONE DAY MORE
Everyone prepares for the coming revolution. Javert will go undercover with the rebels because he is made of dicks. Eponine bound her breasts and put her hair under a jaunty page cap, so everyone thinks she’s a boy. Shit is about to go down.
• My memory is starting to get hazy, so I might leave out a couple songs. I think you’ll still understand the story.
A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN
The fighting has begun, everyone is dead except for Marius/Eponine/Gavroche’s barricade. Little Gavroche recognizes that Javert is a traitor and they leave him to hang. Eponine takes a bullet for Marius and they sing together as she dies and the rain falls. “You’re like a sister to me,” is the last thing he sings to the poor fucking girl. She gives him the note from Cosette.
BRING HIM HOME
I don’t get it, but Valjean decides the best course of action is to go down to the barricade, where people are actively getting shot, and scope out Marius for himself. He approves, and sings a plea to God to protect his precious freckled face. Everyone in the theatre is crying around me. Gavroche gets fucking shot in the chest. You’re all monsters.
Fucking finally. After confronting Valjean for the 100th time and letting him go, Javert realizes there is no more meaning in his life and sings about committing suicide. Then he does it. There is a horrifying noise when he jumps off a bridge and hits the water. I’m assuming so we know that he is, in fact, not coming back. His spine is in half.
EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES
Marius is the only person to survive the revolution and he sings about his dead friends. It’s cool, though, he’s getting married to Cosette and his rich family took him back in.
WEDDING CHORALE/BEGGARS AT THE FEAST
Cosette and Marius get married, SBC and HBC gate crash, which is great. Before the wedding, Valjean confesses everything to Marius because he thinks Javert is still after him. He swears Marius to never tell Cosette. SBC spills the beans though, and it turns out Valjean is waiting at a convent to die. Puzzling, because there was no indication that he was ever sick, but promising, because as soon as Valjean dies, this movie is over. Cosette and Marius rush over to see him.
Everyone is snot-sobbing as Valjean tells Cosette she was the best part of his life, and confesses everything. Ghost Fantine shows up to usher him to heaven. Kind of a shit deal that she wasn’t allowed to have her hair back in the afterlife. It takes about 30 more minutes for Valjean to die, but he sure does. Pull quote of the movie: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING
All the dead people come back and sing on top of a much fancier barricade, and it is glorious. Valjean joins in and I tear up just a little bit. Viva la France.