Les Misérables (Universal Studios, 2012)

Move over Chariots of Fire, Fiddler on the Roof, Shadowlands and The Godfather. On the day after Christmas, we purchased our popcorn and settled in for a much anticipated viewing of Les Miserables. We were not disappointed. It jumps over the previously mentioned movies to the top of my all time favorites.

In my past I have attended multiple travelling Broadway performances of the musical. I once hosted the man playing Jean Valjean at a hotel for his week’s stay. During that week I was able to attend three showings. I have read the book. I have seen previous movie versions.

In other words, I was already sold on the story. The question would be whether the film folks and actors could deliver. Yes, they did. Anne Hathaway’s rendering of I Dreamed a Dream is worth the price of admission alone.

Here are some of the things you will enjoy:

1. The setting – historically placed during unrest in France.

2. The characters – including the offbeat innkeeper and wife.

3. The music – different than the stage presentations, the songs flowed with the story.

You can enjoy all of that and miss the best part about this story. It is a masterful presentation of law, redemption and transformation.

Javert, the police inspector, is a man of the law. He never is able to get his hands around the concepts of grace, mercy and forgiveness. He is the poster child for the biblical teaching that the law kills.

Jean Valjean provides a meaningful visual of a man who goes from being condemned to being redeemed. After redemption he demonstrates that he has been forgiven by living a transformed life trying to transform culture. He still lives with the consequence of his sin, yet strives to bring righteousness to those he encounters.

The stages of his life are reflected by his names. Condemned he was known only by his prison number 24601. Upon his parole he was Jean Valjean. He died to his old life when transformed by grace. Then he is called Mr. Mayor (the English rendering). But when another is mistakenly identified as his old self, he has to again take on the names of 24601 and Jean Valjean. He is no longer the picture perfect Mr. Mayor. He is the the who deserved condemnation but found mercy. 24601 could not convey that grace and mercy. Mr. Mayor could not convey his sin. Only Jean Valjean would do.

Finally, I doubt you will ever find a more meaningful and moving death scene as that which ends the movie.

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