Thursday, January 31, 2013

Period Drama Tag

Here at the end of the first month of the Period Drama Challenge, Miss Laurie has asked a few questions that I'm going to answer quickly

1. What period dramas have you watched in January? 

To Have and Have Not (1944) and Rebecca (1979).  I've also watched half of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, but my copy quit working!  So irritating.  That'll have to be saved for later, I guess.

2. Do you prefer period dramas peppered with humor or laced with dark emotions?

Both!  Sometimes in the same movie.  On a whole, I prefer drama over comedy, but mostly because a lot of comedies just don't fit my personal tastes.  Something that mixes the two is most delightful.

3. What was the first period drama miniseries (two episodes or longer) that you ever watched? 

Ever in my life?  Most likely The Blue and the Gray -- I can't actually remember the first time I saw it.

4. How many Jane Austen adaptations have you seen? 

Five:  Pride and Prejudice (1940), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Emma (1996), Pride and Prejudice (2005).

5. What period drama, that you haven't seen before, are you most looking forward to seeing in the future?

The King's Speech -- I'm planning to see it next month, at long last!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Rebecca" (1979) -- Initial Thoughts

I didn't even know this version of Rebecca existed until a couple of weeks ago, when I read a comment on an old post over at Old-Fashioned Charm that mentioned Jeremy Brett playing Maxim de Winter.  I quick searched YouTube, and lo and behold, you can watch the whole movie right there.  It's a TV version, and has not be released to DVD, so the YouTube version is not very good resolution, but it seems that it and grey-market copies are all that are available right now.  This is why most of my photos here are pretty crummy.

But who cares?  I have loved Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes ever since my junior year in college, when my boyfriend (now husband) introduced me to the Granada Television series.  A dozen years on, we own the whole series, and I'll be blogging about some of the eps for the Period Drama Challenge over the next few months.  Anyway, I couldn't wait to see Brett play Maxim de Winter, as I was quite sure he would be delicious.  And I was right!

Jeremy Brett as Maxim de Winter
Brett's Maxim is worldly, weary, and wonderful.  So Byronic I could bounce and giggle for joy.  Actually, I did just that several times while watching this.  You must understand that this character, in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre are directly responsible for my abiding love of Byronic Heroes.  Give a guy a dark past, have him brood, then offer him a chance at redemption (and possibly some romance), and I melt.

I keep digressing!  Sorry.  Been a long weekend, and I'm having trouble focusing.  Anyway, Jeremy Brett is about as perfect a Maxim de Winter as I can imagine.  Though I do really like Laurence Olivier in the 1940 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock -- it's my favorite Olivier role so far, and he has a far superior mustache to Brett, I must admit.  And it's been years since I saw that one, so I really shouldn't compare them -- I hope to rewatch that version again soon.

See?  Not focusing!  Argh!  Maybe I just keep getting sidetracked by thinking about Maxim's troubled, lonely gaze, or his anguished look when he tells his young bride the truth... sigh... swoon...

Right, need to focus.  Okay.  Let's talk about Joanna David as Mrs. de Winter, shall we?  She's very sweet -- many of you might know her from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, where she played Lizzy's aunt, Mrs. Gardiner.  She's also in a Sherlock Holmes episode opposite Jeremy Brett, and I hope to watch that in a week or so, so I can see the two of them reunited.  She's very good as Mrs. de Winter, plain and awkward and uncertain, but so kind and thoughtful that you can see how a troubled soul like Maxim would be attracted to her.

Joanna David and Jeremy Brett
Okay, I'll stop here and explain the plot a bit to anyone who hasn't read the book or seen any version.  The protagonist, who never gets a first name, is a paid companion to a rich, boorish, middle-aged woman.  They're in Monte Carlo, sight-seeing, when she meets Maxim de Winter, who has recently lost his wife, the beautiful Rebecca.  Maxim marries her and whisks her off to his wonderful home in Britain, Manderley.  There, the new Mrs. de Winter meets the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who keeps telling her how inferior she is compared to Rebecca.  Eventually, the new Mrs. de Winter learns truth about how Rebecca died, and... no, I can't spoil it.

This is one of my absolute favorite novels.  I think it's the only story where I don't ever daydream that I'm part of the world and friends with the characters -- I daydream that I marry Maxim instead and handle everything perfectly and keep him happy forever.  It's the only story where I want to step in and replace a character, at least as far as I can remember.

(Random aside -- in the book, the girl tells Maxim her name, and he remarks that it's a lovely and unusual name.  In another of my favorite books, S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, when Ponyboy Curtis tells Cherry Valance that Ponyboy is his real name, she also remarks, "That's an unusual and lovely name."  I love that connection.)

So anyway, where was I?  Unfocused and sleepy.  Right.  Well, the rest of the cast is quite good, particularly  Julian Holloway as Rebecca's loathsome cousin Jack Favell.  I also thought Anna Massey did a good job as Mrs. Danvers, though she seemed way too young -- Massey was 42, but I guess I've always pictured Mrs. Danvers as considerably older.

Anna Massey
(Interesting note -- Anna Massey was Jeremy Brett's ex-wife, and according to this website, they didn't speak to each other unless the cameras were rolling for the entire filming because they were disagreeing about a motorbike Brett had given their son.)

Old-Fashioned Charm
Okay, a quick note on the period costumes and things.  I think this is set in the 1920's or 1930's, based on the cars and clothes, and the fact that the book was published in 1938.  Most of Mrs. de Winter's clothes are simple, plain, and not elegant.  Maxim's clothes are expensive, but simple -- he wears mostly browns, a lot of suits, a couple of horrible turtlenecks (I happen to loathe turtlenecks), and some extremely wonderful hats.

Jeremy Brett in a snappy hat.
Here's a pretty good shot of the sorts of costumes this has.  Complete with a weird little fox-biting-its-tail thing, very period.

Mr. & Mrs. de Winter
One of the pivotal scenes involves a fancy dress ball, where Mrs. de Winter dresses up to match a painting of a long-dead de Winter ancestress.  She looks lovely, with her hair up and an exquisite dress -- and I can't manage to screencap anything that looks better than this image I found online, blast it.  At least it gives you some idea.

Mrs. de Winter and the painting she copied.
Anyway, because this is almost 4 hours long, it is able to follow the book a lot more faithfully than the 1940 version, putting in a lot of character development and detail that had to be glossed over earlier.  I very much recommend it, even though there aren't any good, clear copies available right now.  To whet your appetite, here's the proposal scene, which I find totally delicious:

When he says, "You still haven't answered my question," that's when I dissolve into a rather large puddle all 'round the computer desk.  Jeremy Brett's voice -- like buttered toast, salty and a little scratchy and delicious :-9

EDIT:  I forgot to mention whether or not this movie is family-friendly.  There are a few of the more traditional curse words, and since I'm trying not to spoil the plot, I'll just say that there are discussions of a couple of mortal sins, but not in such a way as to make the viewer blush.  Does that make any sense at all?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"To Have and Have Not" (1944)

(Spoiler warning -- I do discuss some plot details here, but I do NOT give away the ending.)

Although released in 1944, To Have and Have Not is set in 1940, shortly after France fell to the Nazis. It takes place on Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean.  Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) owns a fishing boat, and some Free French patriots want to rent his boat to smuggle a freedom fighter onto the island.  At first, Harry says no -- he's an American and wants to stay neutral because he needs the local Vichy-controlled government's permission to do business.

But then, the Gestapo haul Harry and newcomer "Slim" (Lauren Bacall) in for questioning, which makes Harry mad, so he decides to do the people-smuggling job after all.  He says he's doing it for the money, but he clearly has anti-German (or just anti-bully) sentiments.  Plus, he wants to use part of the money to get Slim a plane ticket home.

But by now, Slim is obviously in love with Harry, and she decides to stay in Martinique to be near him.  She gets a job singing in the cafe where Harry lives, thanks to the cafe's piano player, Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael).  As Harry gets more and more embroiled in the resistance movement, so does she, and so does Harry's "rummy" friend, Eddie (Walter Brennan).

Walter Brennan needs a nap.  And a hug.

The film bears precious little resemblance to Ernest Hemingway's novel by the same name, other than that they both have a central character named Harry Morgan who owns a fishing boat.  But I'm okay with that, because you can imagine this is a prequel to the book if you want.  Or just consider them as two separate entities, which is what I do.

I kind of feel like, after the success of Casablanca in 1942, the studio wanted another anti-Nazi movie about a reluctant hero and an unlikely romance for Humphrey Bogart to star in, and this is what they came up with.  Like Rick Blaine, Bogie's character in Casablanca, Harry Morgan pretends to be selfish and materialistic, only interested in making money, not in doing what's right or what's patriotic.  But while Rick had people pretty convinced he would stick his neck out for nobody, everyone knows Harry is a softie who "carries" drunk Eddie on his ship so Eddie will have some sort of job, who buys plane tickets for stray girls to go home, who will probably be willing to rent his boat to desperate resistance fighters.  Accordingly, while I like Rick Blaine okay, I absolutely love Harry Morgan.

Just threw in this lovely shot of Bacall because she's so spunky here

This is Lauren Bacall's first film, though she'd done some acting on stage in New York.  Just in case you didn't know this already, this film was where she and Bogart met and fell in love.  The chemistry between the two of them is legendary, the stuff dreams actually are made of.  Watching them here, you can almost feel the attraction pulling them together.  I've never seen Bogie look and behave sexier than he does here -- his weather-beaten face takes on a roguish charm, his eyes glow with hope and wonder and desire.

Puppy eyes

Part of why I love this movie is the great use it makes of its supporting cast.  Hoagy Carmichael's Cricket is sympathetic and friendly, but with an air of reserve that makes me want to sit down beside him and ask him for his life's story.  Walter Brennan's Eddie is sweet, pathetic, and seemingly harmless, but he's got more gumption than he lets on.  Then there's Marcel Dalio's Frenchy, who owns the hotel/bar where much of the film is set, and who gets Harry involved with the freedom fighters.  He's nervous and sad-eyed and earnest, but also very good at persuading people to help him while looking harmless and helpless.  All three characters could have been caricatures or just warm-blooded scenery, but instead are vital, fully-realized, and intriguing.

Hoagy Carmichael, Lauren Bacall, and loads of extras

I first saw this when I was in high school, so probably about 15 years ago.  I recall also watching it in college, once with my dear friend ED, and once with my then-boyfriend, now-husband Cowboy.  And I know I watched it when we lived in WI.  So this was my fifth viewing, and the first in at least 5 years.  Each time I see it, I find new layers, new nuances I'd never noticed or considered before.  For example, when I first watched it in high school, I didn't pick up on most of the innuendo in the scenes between Bogart and Bacall.  It wasn't until this viewing that I noticed the similarities between Harry and Casablanca's Rick.  I could go on, but this review is long enough as it is.

Old-Fashioned Charm

Because this is my first entry into the Period Drama Challenge, I will take a moment to remark on the costumes and general period-ness of this film.  Because it's both set and filmed in the 1940s, I kind of assume the costumes are pretty accurate for the era.  I absolutely love Bacall's checkered suit.

Bogie and Bacall

She pulls off the slinky, midriff-baring dress for her debut as a lounge singer too, though I don't like it quite as well.


But my favorite of her costumes is her striped bathrobe, simple and homey, looking kind of worn and well-traveled, like it's something that reminds her of the home she ran away from, ugly but beloved.


Bogart spends most of the movie in some variation of the same outfit, a white button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled deliciously to the elbow, a black kerchief rolled and tied around his neck, a jaunty captain's hat, and either denim-looking pants with enormous back pockets or else off-white trousers.

Aboard his boat

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work he goes

I don't know much about Martinique during WWII, so I don't know how historically accurate this movie is, but of course, the Vichy government and the Free French were definitely real. 

I absolutely recommend this film!  It does contain a lot of cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking, and some violence, though it's mostly implied violence, not at all gory or bloody.  And there's a lot of flirty, innuendo-laden dialog, which progresses to a bit of kissing, nothing more.  Oh, no bad language either!  It probably moves too slowly for a lot of younger viewers, but otherwise is pretty appropriate for all audiences.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Old-Fashioned Charm's Period Drama Challenge

Old-Fashioned Charm

One of my new favorite blogs, Old-Fashioned Charm, is hosting a challenge that I absolutely have to take up, namely, to watch -- and review -- as many period dramas as you can in the next 6 months.  I'm signing on board to watch at least 10, which makes me a "Devotee" -- though I'm going to ask if she considers episodes of TV shows to count, because if she does, then I'll bump up to the "Fanatic" category and try to watch 12-15.

I'll be tagging my posts with "Period Drama Challenge" for easier finding.

Let the costumed fun begin!

EDIT:  Miss Laurie says eps of worthy TV shows count, so I'm aiming for Fanatic!

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012) -- Initial Thoughts

It's been over a week since I went to see The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey, and I'm only now getting a chance to write up my thoughts.  Sigh.

I quite liked it.  I didn't love it, but I don't love the book, either.  People keep comparing this to the LotR movies, and I find that unfair, because you can't compare the books either, not really.  It's like comparing Just So Stories with Kim -- same author, same basic setting, very different themes, audiences, purposes.  So please, compare this to its source material, not to the Other Movies based on completely different source material.

But anyway, it was lovely to be in Middle Earth once more.  And I did love the little ways they tied this to the Other Movies, particularly Gandalf whacking his head on the chandelier in Bag End.  Which was about all I enjoyed about the first section of the movie (post-prologue).

I think the reason I didn't love this movie is because the whole business of the dwarves invading Bilbo's home made me very uncomfortable.  I know exactly how it feels to have your things imperiled, your snacks eaten, your orderliness disheveled, and your privacy trampled upon; I have three small children -- that's my life!  Or rather, that's an extreme version of all the things I like least about having three small children.  I sympathized so much with Bilbo that I disliked the dwarves for about the first hour of the movie.  Still makes me a bit testy to think about it.  This doesn't mean I thought that whole beginning to the tale was badly done -- obviously, if it elicited such a strong response in me, it was some strong work.  My dislike is purely a personal reaction.

Bilbo surrounded by interloping Dwarves

Speaking of personal reactions, I also didn't like how many parts of the movie seemed aimed squarely at ten-year-old boys.  Humor that bordered on gross, repulsiveness for the sake of repulsiveness (I'm looking at you, Goblin King!)... sorry, just not my thing.

Gandalf and the dwarves face down the Goblin King.  A Balrog, he's not.

But enough about what I didn't like.  What did I like?  Being in Hobbiton and Rivendell again!  And the cheerier version of Rivendell too, where it's the Last Homely House and no one is talking about leaving Middle Earth.  So charming!

Sunny, happy Rivendell

And I loved getting to see Saruman again!  I was not expecting to see him (been avoiding most reviews until I'd seen it), and I got all choked up when he appeared.  Not that I like Saruman, you understand, but I think Christopher Lee is a fascinating person, and I'm so glad he could be part of that world once more.  I imagine that must have pleased him a great deal.

Saruman the White (Christopher Lee)

Speaking of wizards, wasn't Gandalf just delightful?  Less weary and worried than in the Other Movies, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  I would watch an entire movie just about Gandalf wandering about Middle Earth, tending to the Affairs of Wizards.

Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen)

Somehow, I've written eight paragraphs here without giving The Hobbit himself more than a passing mention.  Silly me!  I quite liked Martin Freeman in this, but then, I've liked him in everything I've ever seen him in.  Or, I should say, all three things I've seen him in before.  I didn't realize until just now that he played Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) -- I thought I'd only seen him in Love Actually (2003) and the pilot of Sherlock.  I loved him dearly in Love Actually (as I mentioned once here), so as soon as I found out he'd been cast as Bilbo Baggins, I relaxed a bit about this movie, as I felt quite sure he would fit the role perfectly.  I am delighted to say that I was right -- he's a sweet, serious, and stalwart Bilbo, as Hobbitty as I could wish.

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman)

As for the dwarves, I did warm up to them eventually.  Especially Kili.  Quite liked him.  Since he's not the main character, but rapidly becoming my favorite, he'll probably fall prey to the great curse, ala Boromir and Sirius Black.  Hoping not!  I don't remember from the book, so if you know anything about his fate, please don't spoil me!

Kili (Aidan Turner)

Now, we can't forget to comment on Gollum, can we, Precious?  The first time I encountered this book, my mom read it aloud to my brother and I.  I didn't much care for it, which is why I didn't read The Lord of the Rings until the movies came out.  All I ever really remembered from The Hobbit was Gollum's hisssssssssing -- when I re-read the book a couple years ago, that's all that I recalled at all.  He was almost sweet here, almost naive in some ways.  Very pitiable, certainly.  Well done, writers and Andy Serkis!

Gollum (Andy Serkis, somewhere in there)

There's been a lot said about Peter Jackson's decision to make three movies from one book, beefing it up with material from Tolkien's other writings.  I trust him.  I think he'll do well by us.  Also, since I still don't love the book, I don't mind as much as some when he adds and subtracts and rearranges it.  After all, Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth never made it into the Other Movies at all, so maybe he'll get to pop up here!  Or Tom Bombadil!  Or Glorfindel!  Who knows?

Peter Jackson showing Ian McKellen and us the future

Saturday, January 05, 2013

"Les Miserables" (2012) -- Initial Thoughts

I cannot remember the last time I have cried that hard during a movie.  Not in the last year or two, at any rate.  I'm very glad I ended up seeing this myself instead of with my mom, which was my original plan, because I think that, even with someone who has known me all my life, I would have been inhibited and not allowed myself to connect so deeply with the characters on screen.

(WARNING:  This is going to be very long, very spoilage-ful, and probably a bit purple at times.  Forgive me, I have a heart full of love for this music and these characters, and for several of these actors, so I may very well wax poetic or maudlin or both.)

Where to begin?

Perhaps with the opening scene.  My first thoughts were, "A shipyard?  What?  Dude, no, this is all wrong -- it's supposed to be a quarry!  Aw, man, if they changed the very opening scene, what else are they going to mess with?"  But I get it now, the symbolism of the giant ship that failed to launch -- it's the failed French Revolution, which was big and mighty and powerful... and did not stay afloat.  The very opening titles inform us that there is a king on the French throne once again.  And so it is up to the looked-down-upon to try to salvage what they can and start again.

Okay, so I liked that in retrospect, though at the time I was nervous about the change.  I also liked how they spent a few tiny scenes showing us just how hopeless Valjean's life is once he's on parole, because it made his theft from the priest much more understandable.  I think I really began to connect with the movie during "What Have I Done" -- at first, I was having a little trouble thinking of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and not as Hugh Jackman, but with that song, I slipped into the movie and didn't resurface until about halfway through the end credits.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) on the outs

Before I saw this, I was not at all sure about Hugh playing Valjean, I will admit.  When I first heard, a year or more ago, that he and Russell Crowe were signing on for a movie version of the Les Mis musical, my first thought was how perfect Crowe would be as Valjean -- he's got the sort of burly build that really would lend itself to Valjean's feats of superhuman strength, plus the underlying tenderness that would make his adoption of Cosette very sweet.  And as for Hugh Jackman, well, I love Hugh Jackman!  And I could see him as a relentless, suspicious, bloodhound of a Javert.  Delightful!  I could already hear their "Confrontation" duet, with Crowe growling out "I am warning you Javert, I'm a stronger man by far -- There is power in me yet!"  And Hugh snarling back with, "Men like you can never change!  A man such as you."  Oh, it was going to be so delicious!

I'd still love to see a version with them in those roles.  I wish this was actually on stage, like Olivier and Gielgud doing Romeo & Juliet and alternating  as Romeo and Mercutio.  Ah well, I can dream, can't I.

Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe)

Anyway, this seems like a fitting point to discuss Russell Crowe's performance as Inspector Javert.  I've had several people tell me they were disappointed by him, and I could see how they might be.  He does not snarl and sneer like, say, Geoffrey Rush in the 1998 non-musical version.  He spends most of the movie looking very weary, his eyes veiled, hiding himself behind his uniform as it were.  Javert in the novel, if I remember aright (it's been a decade since I read it) did work hard to hide the fact that he was, as he sings here, "born inside a jail" and "from the gutter too."

Javert and Valjean during "Confrontation"

So I can accept Crowe's portrayal of Javert as very guarded, very private, very correct.  Especially since, when Valjean eventually saves his life, he turns savage, berating his nemesis for turning him loose instead of having his revenge.  Crowe's Javert comes to life there, shedding his carefully maintained persona to reveal his inner turmoil.  When he sings his final song, with "And must I now begin to doubt, Who never doubted all these years," I really felt him falling to pieces, undone by Valjean's act of forgiveness.

The only quibble I have with Russell Crowe as Javert, in fact, is all about the staging of his solo, "Stars."  It's BO-RING!  He's pacing along a rooftop, true, but he's got his arms stiff at his side, all soldierly and unbending.  I can see that they were trying to emphasize that unbendingness, his rigidity of purpose and person, but would a clenched fist raised aloft at the end have been too much to ask?  And while they were at it, couldn't they have transposed the song like half an octave lower so we could have had more of the menacing growl he lent to "Confrontation" and the scene where Valjean freed him?  But those are trivial issues, and ones not necessarily under Crowe's control.

Hugh Jackman was, to put it mildly, perfect.  But, then, isn't he always?  I have never seen him turn in a bad performance.  I've seen him in some roles I didn't care for, but that's a matter of my taste, not his talent.

As for the rest of the principles, I enjoyed them.  Amanda Seyfried was an ethereal, wondering Cosette, and I actually liked Eddie Redmayne's Marius -- I usually roll my eyes at Marius for being such a giddy schoolboy, and at Cosette for falling for a pretty face she doesn't know.  But Redmayne isn't pretty at all!  Kind of looks like a freckled frog, really, and so I felt like there was more to Cosette's liking for him than just "he's cute."  (I spent most of his screen time trying to figure out where I'd seen him before -- finally had to look on when I got home; he's Matt Damon's son in The Good Shepherd.)

Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried)

I wished Fantine could have had more screen time -- Samantha Barks was winsome and wistful, and absolutely nailed "On My Own," my second-favorite song.

Fantine (Samantha Barks)

Speaking of favorite songs, I have two that tie for first:  "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Who Am I?"  And they.  were.  amazing.  I don't think I shall ever be able to hear "I Dreamed a Dream" again without envisioning Anne Hathaway's Fantine and bawling.  I think it will be a long time before I can bring myself to belt it out in the shower again.  They filmed that song in one long take, pulled so close in on her face that her anguish was almost visceral.  People say she's a lock for a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and I say she would deserve it based on those few minutes alone.  Anne Hathaway has not hitherto been a favorite of mine -- I like her okay, I've seen her in a handful of movies, but she's never really captured my affection.  Until now, that is.  Wow.  Hers may be the strongest performance in the film.

Fantine (Anne Hathaway)

Let's see, who have I not talked about yet?  Umm... ummm... okay, fine I'll briefly mention the Thenardiers.  I can't wait to see this on DVD so I can fast-forward through "Master of the House," because I LOATHE that song.  Helena Bonham-Carter made Madame Thenardier kind of sweet, though, which I wasn't expecting.  But it seems to me that she has become a female version of John Cleese -- John Cleese always plays John Cleese, and she always plays Helena Bonham-Carter, all Bellatrix-LeStrange-d to the max.  I do want to see The King's Speech because I'd like to see her in something where her hair isn't teased two feet from her head and she's not wearing prosthetic teeth.  Might be great!

I'd say my favorite bit of staging was how they did the finale on a giant barricade, harking back to the set piece for the stage version.

The finale

I also liked the first meeting of Valjean and Cosette, set in a fairy-tale-gone-wrong woods.  They're both tentative and shy, so very sweet.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

Finally, though, I'm always irked by the tacked-on, modernistic "moral" at the very end:  "To love another person is to see the face of God."  Er, what?  No, no, no, the point of Victor Hugo's novel was much more than a touchy-feely catch-phrase.  It's more about the difference between living a life guided only by the Law, which ultimately leads to despair (Javert), versus a life filled with the Gospel, which leads to peace (Valjean).  Again, it's been ten years since I read the novel, but that is what I took away from it, so much more profound than just "love is important."

Well, there, those are my thoughts on this movie.  Whew!  Only took me about 4 hours to write, thanks to a few small interruptions children.