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May 05, 1998 - Image 14

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1998-05-05

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14 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 5, 1998
Best to wait for 'Les
Miz' on videotape

By Michael Galloway
Daily Arts Editor
Don't expect the Thenardiers to be
singing "Master of the House." The film
adaptation of "Les Miserables" comes
from the classic Victor Hugo novel and
not the internationally famous broadway
musical. Uma Thurman and Liam
Neeson thankful-
ly will not break
into song, but an
intermission may .
be required.L
A wonderful M
cast, good direct-
ing and a well-
crafted script At Showcase
should add up to and state
an entertaining
movie, but most
people. will find '
themselves a little
bored sitting
through the 129
minutes of this
film and will probably sneak off for a
wild cherry arctic blast during one of
Claire Danes' scenes.
"Les Miserables" only offers some
surprises to the few who have read the
book and the multitude who have seen

the musical.
In fact, the title could be changed to
"Le Miserable," since the movie focuses
entirely on Jean Valjean, wonderfully
portrayed by Liam Neeson. As demon-
strated in "Michael Collins" and "Rob
Roy" Neeson competently peforms as a
compassionate, charismatic character
whose guilt and pain from living a vio-
lent life lies just beneath his solemn vis-
age. He also seems very comfortable in
the leading role, and the movie works
best when the character of Valjean is at
the center of the plot.
For those who are unfamiliar with the
story, Valjean is an ex-convict just
released from a prison in Toulon in 1812
where he had spent 20 years for stealing
Bishop's uncommon hospitality and
selfless example changes Valjean from
a hardened criminal to a merciful and
compassionate soul. After ten years
and with his convict identity con-
cealed, Valjean is the mayor of Vigau
and owner of a factory. Unfortunately,
Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush), a
former guard at the Toulon prison,
joins the police force and begins to
suspect Valjean is an inmate whom he


Inspector Javert (Geoffrey Rush) suspects something amiss about the humble but enit
film adaptation of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables."

Geoffrey Rush shines in his perfor-
mance as the nemesis ofValjean, making
the always strict and formal Javert into
an uncompromising automaton bent on
destroying crime, following rules and
exposing Valjean.
Amidst this intrigue, one of the
workers in Valjean's factory, Fantine
(Uma Thurman), is fired for having an
illegitimate child. Fantine resorts to
prositution to support her child,
Cosette, who is being raised by anoth-
er family.
Although one too many shots of
Thurman's cleavage exist to be mere

coincidence, Thurman deserves praise
for portraying a Fantine who evokes
sympathy without seeming melodramat-
After being arrested for striking a
"gentleman," Fantine pleas for leniency
from Javert. Javert refuses, but Valjean
uses his mayorial power to get her
released. Valjean brings her to his house
and begins to care for her, but lack of
proper clothing and nourishment have
taken their toll. Her death scene occurs
with clever subtlety as Javert confronts
This confrontation is the climax of the
movie, and while the rest of the film is
hardly pointless or boring, it seems -
well - anticlimatic. According to press
releases, Rafael Yglesias, the writer of
the screenplay, focused the story com-
pletely on Valjean, the main character.
This works well until that focus is divert-
Nine years later, after rescuing
Fantine's daughter from her former
guardians, the deceitful and greedy
Thenardiers, and sneaking into a
Parisian convent, the now-adolescent
Cosette (Claire Danes) tells her "papa,"

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
gmatic mayor of the town of Vigau in the
Valjean, that she doesn't want to become
a nun.
The two leave the convent when
they have lived and move into a very
nice house. Valjean uses the fortune
he has acquired to feed and clothe the
poor, somehow still unseen by Javert,
who started serving on the Parisian
police force nine years ago.
Cosette begins to notice one of the
young student revolutionaries, Marius,
who gives public speeches about the
freeing the Republic. The two begin*0
see each other secretly, but their relation-
ship fails to beome interesting, detouring
either too much or not enough from the
story so far.
Danes gives her best scene when she
demands to know the truth from her
guardian about his past, and Valiean is
once more the center of the story.Once
the plot returns again to the cat and
mouse chase between Javert and Valjean,
"Les Miserables" becomes completely
engaging. While this film adaptation o
hardly a poor means by any measure-
ment, it makes a great video rental as
opposed to an above-average cinema

$ .
On sale now at:
all Michigan Wherehouse locations

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