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.


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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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