Les Miserables is the story of Jean Valjean set in 1800's France. As the film begins, you find him in a prison camp having been jailed for 19 years for stealing bread to feed his sister's child. The story starts with the day of his release from prison. He is given papers that he must show everywhere he goes identifying him as a convict, which makes it impossible for him to find work or shelter. Beaten and hungry, he is discovered by a priest who takes him in, feeds him and gives him a bed. During the night, Jean steals all of the silver and runs away, only to be caught and brought back by the police. When they inform the priest that they have discovered Jean with the stolen goods, the priest tells them that they were a gift. He then gives Jean two silver candlesticks that he left behind. From this moment on, Jean has a change of heart. He decides that he must do good with this new start he has been given. He tears up his papers, changes his name and begins a new life.
Six years pass and Valjean has become an upstanding citizen, wealthy factory owner and a mayor under the assumed name of Monsieur Madeleine. One day, Javert, the police officer who has been searching for him relentlessly since he broke his parole, shows up, having been appointed to serve Valjean as mayor, but not knowing who he is. In his distress at seeing Javert and trying to conceal who he is, he carelessly allows a factory employee, Fantine, to be fired at no fault of her own. Fantine, a single mother with a child she supports by leaving her in the care of two inn owners and paying them for her keep, is forced to make a living as a prostitute on the streets. One day, Valjean discovers her there while out helping the poor and learns of his part in her tragic story. As Fantine is dying, he vows to care for her daughter for the rest of his life. He goes to the inn, where unbeknownst to Fantine little Cosette has been abused by the innkeeper and his wife, and takes her away with him.
The movie follows the life of Valjean and Cosette, his fleeing from Javert that causes the and Cosette to go into hiding, the young revolutionary Cosette falls in love with, and the sacrifices Valjean makes to ensure that his promise to Fantine is kept.
The cast of this movie is impressive, with Valjean being played by Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the inn keepers.
I was most impressed with Anne Hathaway's performance. Though her part was fairly small compared to the rest, she played it beautifully. Jackman and Crowe also gave excellent performances and did a pretty great job singing!
I was disappointed with Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, mainly because I found her singing to be so terrible as to distract from her character. Also, her love interest, Marius (played by Eddie Redmayne) failed to impress with his lackluster performance.
Surprisingly, another small part, that of Eponine (the daughter of the inn keeper) played by Samantha Barks was wonderful. Her voice was lovely, and her emotions were spot on.
One additional thing I will mention about this movie.. it is rated PG-13, but there were some scenes (most notably when Fantine first becomes a prostitute) that I felt were grossly inappropriate for my 13 year old daughter. (I made her cover her eyes, much to her mortification ;) I would say take caution in bringing any child under 16 to this movie.
My final recommendation would be, see it if you have never seen it live, you will most likely enjoy it..however, if you have seen the show in the theater, be prepared for a little disappointment.
Hugs and Smooches,