As I professed in my write-up of the trailer for the big-screen adaptation of Les Miserables, I’m a bit of a nut for the show. So of course, knowing there was a movie version of the hit musical arriving in theaters in 2012 left me a little anxious — as any fan would be. But the first glimpse of the movie offered reassurance that director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his all-star cast — including Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried — were getting it right.
Hathaway’s sweeping vocals carry the trailer’s imagery, a selection of snippets from the film that, while not delivering on context, punch with emotion. Whether or not you’re a fan of the source material, the trailer does wonders. So what’s going on? What are we actually seeing in the first tease of footage? Here’s a breakdown of the trailer that should shed some light on what to expect from one of the holiday season’s biggest releases:
Our first glimpse of Les Misérables follows Jean Valjean (Jackman), recently released from jail, seeking shelter in a church. The opening of the musical is a long stretch of music chronicling Valjean’s difficult time getting his life back together (“Prologue: On Parole”) and this moment is most likely in the middle of that number.
The main dynamic in Les Misérables is the endless chase of Valjean by Inspector Javert, and here we see Russell Crowe’s menacing law enforcer striding into town in full pursuit mode. This shot appears to be from one of Javert’s many resurgences back into Valjean’s life post-release, either during “Fantine’s Arrest” or “Look Down.”
The movie’s title translates to “The Miserables,” so it’s no surprise there’s a morose air to the first trailer. This is Anne Hathaway’s Fantine, having a breakdown during her big number, “I Dreamed a Dream.”
Most of Fantine’s struggles to earn money for her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the Thénardiers, a pair of wretched caretakers. We don’t get to see that playful duo in this spot (their the comic relief, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen), but we do see Cosette being sent out to fetch water from the well. Since she’s not singing, this is probably the scene after her memorable number “Castle on a Cloud.”
Fantine spends her days working at a factory, one coincidentally owned by the rejuvenated Valjean. We see a few shots that hint at the monotony of the work and the women who will later torture Fatine with name calling in the song “At the End of the Day.”
Jumping back in time, the trailer flashes to a shot of Valjean doing some heavy yanking while imprisoned in the Bagne of Toulon. Unlike the stage version, that features a chain gang hammering away, Valjean appears to be… building a pyramid in the movie? The opening number “Prologue: Work Song” uses a very deliberate beat synced with the work — it may now be timed with the pulling of rope.
A shot of dapper Javert, who looks so clean cut he may be preparing to infiltrate the student revolt (that eventually leads to the Paris Uprising of 1832). In the second act of the show, Javert disguises himself as a rebel and “leaks” the plans of the opposition in the number “Javert’s Arrival.”
This is our first look at Amanda Seyfried as grown up Cosette, looking significantly less miserable than the rest of the ensemble. With all the smiling present, this is likely a shot from later in the film when her romance with rebellious young Marius finally begins to blossom (the proper song title may be a bit of a giveaway, but I imagine this is around “Beggars at the Feast”).
[Photo Credits: Universal Pictures]