Required to show papers everywhere declaring himself an ex-convict, Valjean can't find work and teeters on the brink of starvation. An encounter with a benevolent bishop (Colm Wilkinson, who originated the role of Valjean on Broadway and in London) inspires the former prisoner to tear up his papers and start a new life as an honest man. But Valjean's choice to skip out on his parole prompts Javert to become obsessed with hunting down and reimprisoning him. The fear of discovery and longing for real freedom also defines Valjean's life, even when he adopts young Cosette (Isabelle Allen), Fantine's illegitimate daughter.
While Hathaway and Jackman are earning awards buzz for their performances, Amanda Seyfried effectively luminesces and hits some startlingly high notes as the young adult Cosette, and Eddie Redmayne exudes boyish charm as Marius, the revolutionary who falls in love with her at first sight.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide hard-edged but much-needed comic relief as the thieving innkeepers who housed Cosette as a girl. But Samantha Barks nearly steals the film as their daughter Eponine, who is in love with Marius. Barks played the part on the London stage in 2010-11, and her “On My Own” is every bit as affecting as Hathaway's “I Dreamed a Dream.”
The movie musical explores the ways people's lives intersect, but it probably takes the notion a bit too far. After all, more than 2 ½ hours is a long time to spend in a story crammed with enough poverty, death and tragedy to be called “Les Miserables,” even if Hooper pulls off the uplifting finale. — Brandy McDonnellMOVIE REVIEW “Les Miserables” PG-13 2:37
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Samantha Barks. (Suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements)