Everyone is rightfully excited for Les Misérables, but there’s a nagging question: Does this Hollywood film need to be so French? Why couldn’t they America it up a little bit? We have class inequality. We have prostitutes. We have houses in need of masters. But where would we set a modern-day Les Miz (Les Mis)? We found the answer in Jean Valjean’s very prisoner number: 24601. These five numbers could be an American zip code, which sounded like fate! And sure enough, it is a zip, for Amonate, Virginia, a very small former mining town on the Virginia–West Virginia border. A long browse of street-view images of Amonate on Google Maps found, among the town’s many pleasant Southern homes, a bunch of abandoned buildings that would be perfect settings for iconic Les Miz numbers. Through the magic of Photoshop, we matched characters to these Amonate locales and you will find that the movie comes alive in a way that France (or at least French sets) could never hope to match. (Minor spoilers follow for those who have never seen the musical.)
Freshly a free man, Jean Valjean sees no way to acquire income, so he must steal from a church. How about this church on Amonate road?
After being fired, abused, and shorn, Fatine has nothing. All she can do is sell her body and dream a dream, and this condemned building seems like a great place for that.
Valjean makes a promise to Fantine that he’ll raise Cosette, so he visits the Thénardiers in their colorful home (of which Mr. Thénardier is the master) and purchases the young girl from them.
After chasing Valjean for years, Javert lets him go. With his life’s mission moot, his identity is lost, so he jumps off a bridge. Amonate has a bridge.
It’s Marius and Cosette’s wedding day, but Valjean has left without telling Cosette who he is and the sacrifices he has made. However, Marius buckles and tells Cosette what happened, so they run to find Valjean dying in church. How about this church?