Les Miserables, rated PG-13

Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter

Austin Family critical rating: 4 of 5 stars
Austin Family family-friendly rating: 3 of 5 stars

Les Miserables holds a very special place in my heart – I know most of the lyrics by memory, and in high school my friend Austin Kingsbery and I advanced to national competition with “Confrontation” (he played Javert and I was Valjean). Yes, I’ve longed to see this musical on film (even though I’ve always secretly harbored the desire to direct an adaptation myself, in my imaginary future as a film director). With its emphasis on performance over musical prettiness, Tom Hooper’s film version represents a bold new approach to shooting a musical and I think it pays off beautifully. I’ve never felt so intimately and emotionally affected by the characters in a musical, and in an age where many movies seem consumed by self-referential irony, I appreciate Hooper’s unwillingness to inject even a hint of irony into the film. This is a tragic opera, and it is the Les Miserables adaptation that the fans of the musical deserve.

Hugh Jackman as Valjean, and Anne Hathaway as Fantine, are every bit as outstanding as you’ve heard, and they deserve Oscar nominations for their impeccable work. But let’s not count out Russell Crowe, who brings a grave understanding to Javert that’s unique and worth applauding. His performance is the most underrated in this much-lauded acting ensemble, which also includes a great Eddie Redmayne as Marius and the wonderful Samantha Barks as one of the most tragic characters in the show, Eponine. I’ve seen the musical many times, but I’ve never seen it like this – so intimate and so unapologetically emotional. Although I’ll never quite get over the fact that Hooper won the Best Director Oscar for The King’s Speech over David Fincher for The Social Network, I have to hand it to Hooper here – he has made a wonderful movie.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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