The story of Les Miserables has been retold and copied countless times since the novel by Victor Hugo appeared in 1862 and still, no matter what incarnation, it steals my heart.

I am a huge fan.

I was given an opportunity to attend an advance screening of the Les Miserables film last night starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen.

If you are unfamiliar with the tale, it is about faith and justice and humanity.

“Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption–a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.”

Directed by The King’s Speech’s Academy Award-winning director, Tom Hooper, the film contains impressive cinematography, sets, costumes and make-up and stays true to the original musical format with almost no spoken dialogue.

And the talent… oh my Lord.  THE TALENT.

Having seen  Hugh Jackman on film as well as on Broadway in A Steady Rain, I was fully aware of his acting ability. Even so, I’ve seen Les Mis on stage at least six different times and I had my doubts. I mean, Jean Valjean is a legendary character. (The stage musical has been seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries, for goodness sake.)  

I needn’t have worried. The actors were superbly cast.

Highlights, other than Jackman’s performance, include Eddie Redmayne’s beautiful rendition of Empty Chairs At Empty Tables, and Anne Hathaway’s raw, astonishingly moving version of I Dreamed A Dream. When she sang, the entire theater held its collective breath.  She tore our hearts out.

And Gavroche was a scene-stealer. He broke my heart.

Le Miserables purists will be exited to hear that Colm Wilkinson, the man who played Jean Valjean in the original stage production, appears in the pivitol role of the Bishop of Digne. The fabulous Frances Ruffelle, the original Eponine, also appears on screen in the film, albeit in a much smaller role.

Now, this film is one that I would like to expose my children to but truthfully, I plan on waiting for the DVD so that I can edit out some of the sexuality of the film.

Opening on December 25th, I definitely recommend including this movie in your holiday plans. It is Oscar worthy, to be sure!