Les Miserables. It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful in every way. I cried like I have never cried before, and I fell in love like I have never fallen in love before. So maybe I’m being dramatic. The thing about Les Miserables is that Hugo created characters who are each strong in their own ways. I was touched by Éponine’s sacrifice for unrequited love, Marius’ will to go on, Fantine’s devotion to her own child, and, of course, Jean Valjean’s dedication to becoming an honest man. Each character had a story that held together the entire piece like the root of a tree—each and every single one. I think that stories often have characters who take the backseat, without whom life would continue, but Les Miserables shows how every person has a history and every action has a purpose.
And then, there was the music. I am rarely unaffected by music, and Les Miserables was no exception. I wept with every piano in Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream, as her voice tore with sobs and broken expressions. Anne Hathaway brought to her character an overpowering poignancy that I doubt many actors could have done. She basically changed me in that movie theatre. To bring that type of depth to a character like Fantine is unimaginable. To explain Fantine—she is a character who resorted to prostitution and a low life only to support her illegitimate daughter, Cosette. I Dreamed a Dream was of the man Fantine once loved in her youth, the father of Cosette, and how her life had so drastically changed from what she had once imagined it to be. And in that moment, Anne Hathaway brought all of her raw emotions to the stage. Every single actor/actress sang live in front of the camera in one take, so every note, word, and emotion was natural. Even as I write this, I continue to fall in love with the movie even more.
However, of all the characters, Marius and Éponine touched me the most. I suppose it was because they symbolized what being young is about, and I relate to that. Being young is about being able to make a difference, like Marius did as a revolutionary who took a stand for something not-typically supported. And at the same time, his character emphasized the value of people in our lives, especially in our dynamic youth. He met and fell in love with Cosette at first sight (a love story I’m not a fan of), but also was the object of Éponine’s unrequited love. Towards the end of the movie, he had lost his two best friends, Enjolras and Éponine to the war. But together, it was clear that the losses and gains strengthened his character (All of this will make much more sense once you watch it, I promise). Nevertheless, Marius’ entire story left me asking why?why?why? the entire time. It didn’t have to be the way it was, but unfortunately literature can be cruel, and this is a lesson I must to learn as a writer. Regardless of the story and of what people say, I will forever be in favor of Éponine and Marius together. I found Cosette to be a two-dimensional character who, while beautiful and all, didn’t deserve Marius. Éponine, on the other hand, was rooted in her passion; she had devoted her life to her best friend and love. And while the point of her character was to almost be a bit pathetic, I admired her wholeheartedly. As she died in Marius’ arms and their elegant voices harmonized in A Little Fall of Rain, I had nothing but bitter hatred for whoever wrote the script. But that is literature and that is life, and it only made the story stronger. Like TR says, C’est la vie.
I suppose the only way to explain Les Miserables is to call it a compilation of emotions that are meant to bring out the softness in every viewer. I never imagined that I would be sitting in a movie theatre sobbing like a mad woman, but that was the sad truth. Maybe you won’t react quite so strongly, but maybe it’ll change you. I’m warning you: it’s not for the faint-hearted—but watch it and cherish it and love it. It left me speechless, and I have a feeling it will do the same to you.
(I added Éponine to my hypothetical list of “dream roles”…..it’s listed just below Liesl from The Sound of Music and Tanya from Mamma Mia. Maybe one day, I’ll work to play all three roles (and any additional that make the typically-exclusive list), or maybe I’ll just continue belting theirs songs from my car at traffic lights. The latter is probably more realistic.)
Hope your Christmas (or whatever non-denominational holiday) was cheery and wonderful! Keep your eyes open for a New Years post coming up soon. Also, a quick shout-out to Mother Nature on behalf of both TR and me: WE LOVE THE SNOW!