Hollywood Miserables


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The Academy Awards came and went without a Best Picture award for Les Miserables, nor for its incredible lead actor, Hugh Jackman. Fortunately, Anne Hathaway won an award for best supporting actress—much deserved.

If you haven’t seen Les Miserables, make sure you do. This is far and away one of the most moving, beautiful, heart-wrenching, and redeeming films I’ve ever seen. It is also thoroughly and unapologetically Christian and Catholic. The only thing more stunning than the movie itself is the shocking reality that it came from modern Hollywood. That fact alone will leave you almost as speechless as the film.

les_miserables 2The most redeeming aspect of Les Miserables is how the main character, Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, always makes the right choices—even amid great struggle and turmoil—and ultimately finds those choices vindicated. He makes them at the altar, in front of the Eucharist, in churches, in convents; they are rarely easy, but he makes them nonetheless.

For Valjean, this is the result of a major conversion initiated by a model priest after Valjean leaves prison. But Valjean’s troubles don’t end there. He is pursued by another faithful Catholic, a relentless policeman/inspector played by Russell Crowe. The inspector also prays to do God’s will, which he interprets as an unyielding “duty” to pursue Valjean. That Valjean has become a fully changed man and wonderful humanitarian matters nothing to the inspector, who cares only about the letter of the law. It’s faith without love.

In their dramatic final showdown together, Valjean assures the inspector that he has “done his duty, and nothing more.”

That’s precisely the inspector’s problem. His view of being faithful means carrying out his duty to the law, to its very letter, and nothing more. There’s no room for mercy, charity, forgiveness.

Ultimately, the inspector commits suicide, having found no room for mercy, charity, and forgiveness for himself.

Watch Les Miserables. Buy it on DVD for family and friends.

And kudos to the good folks behind the film, who have risen beyond Hollywood’s misery to give us something truly worthwhile.


Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • eyeclinic

    Couldn’t disagree more. The singing was horrid and often incomprehensible. The scene at the Thenardiers was vile and disgusting. Anne Hathaway wasn’t in the movie long enough to be considered a supporting actress. Buy one of the movies but not this one. I recommend the version with Richard Jordan, but the Liam Neeson version is good too. I do think the musical(if you can call it that?) version is more faithful to the book.

  • Donna

    I was profoundly moved by this film. The beauty of the music and the story told kept me in tears much of the time.

    I agree that the Thenardiers are disgusting- and I was glad to see it. Evil is disgusting, and I was happy that the villians are shown to be tawdry, petty, and deeply unhappy beneath their paper-thin jollity.

  • kirk

    I would add a more basic recommendation to viewing the latest movie – buy the unabridged book, Les Miserables and read it slowly,carefully. There is so much more to the story that could not possibly be done in the movie – conversations of such powerful spirituality that one cannot help but be changed by it. Victor Hugo writes almost every word that comes into his head, so it is tedious at times, but in those long, descriptive scenarios, there are gems. And, once you have read the book, the movie, even in it’s inadequacies, takes on so much meaning.

  • cquestr

    I haven’t watched the Academy Awards in years in order to personally boycott the Hollywood machine. However I did go to the theater to see Les Mis and then watched the awards since I was sure the movie would be recognized for all the great messages as well as acting. How wrong was I? That is the last time I will waste my time on that programming. I read the unabridged version many years ago and have seen the live play and television productions several times. There is always something different to reflect upon depending on who is watching with us or where we are in our faith life at the time of the viewing. The shallow Hollywood crowd just doesn’t get it.

  • It is not a shock at all that the opportunity for presumed speeches was denied. We tried to silence God by crucifixion, we’ll try to silence artists’ speeches. But we couldn’t silence all their films: Some may not receive golden statues and the chance to make statements at an award show, but statements were still made with such films as Les Miserables, Lincoln, Life of Pi and Argo, to name a few. Sure, we hoped Lincoln would have won, and Spielberg said, “Thanks, I guess you all finally got the message. Now ask Congress to pass the legislation that needs to get passed.” Or Les Miz won, and a similar speech given. But did we not still hear beautiful pro-Love speeches? Anne Hathaway got to say she hopes violence against women becomes a thing of the past. Daniel Day-Lewis humbly thanked his wife for supporting him through all the hard days living with him as he perfected his craft, and dedicated his award to his mother (who gave him life). And Mr. Affleck’s speech after winning Best Picture for “Argo” perfectly dovetailed with the next day’s Gospel reading (Luke 6:36-38) when he poignantly told us not to hold grudges (presumably alluding to his being snubbed by the Academy for Best Director) and could not have spoken more eloquently about the worthwhile yet challenging work marriage is; he dedicated his award to his children. Hollywood has good roots: The first feature filmed in Hollywood–100 yrs ago, in 1913, and released in 1914–was “The Squaw Man”, based on the stage play of the same name. The film enabled audiences to face the reality of racism and discrimination. Hollywood can and does still enable us to face Truth. God makes straight with crooked lines. Maybe our dreams didn’t come true at the Academy Awards, but Truth was still heard, and can still be seen.

  • Eric

    See the broadway musical!