Wow! How did this not win Best Picture? Having never seen the stage musical, I’d had no idea where Victor Hugo’s plot would go. It started out painfully dark and gritty, then proceeded to engross me, delight me, and convert me to a fangirl by the end of it.
I already knew the lovely solo numbers “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own,” but hadn’t known what they were about. What a revelation it was to hear both of these songs in their dramatic context, in particular the former’s wrenching lament from a soul-killing experience of prostitution. Much of the soundtrack comes likewise dressed in beautiful lyrics, and happily these two melodies resurface.
The staging is sweepingly grand, from mountains of broken wooden furniture to urban labyrinths of uniforms and flags, and the cinematography is exquisite: Éponine pines atop rain-slicked cobblestones, while lambent candle flames and languid lilacs frame Cosette’s profession of love.
Helmed by a larger-than-life hero, it’s an all-out feast for the Francophile and the Romantic.