Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: PG Release Date: December 23, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A silent film star (Dujardin) loses his power in Hollywood when talkie films are introduced, as spearheaded by the appealing Peppy Miller (Bejo).
WHO'S IT FOR? Any being with a heart could enjoy this movie, which includes dogs and sharks. A knowledge or previous experience with silent films isn't even necessary to enjoying The Artist. Just don't talk during the movie for silence's sake (or really any movie, for that matter).
EXPECTATIONS: First seeing the film for the Chicago International Film Festival, I was curious to see how this movie would live up to its hype, and if the movie would aim to be more than a throwback with a cute gimmick. Is anyone going to like this that didn't love The King's Speech?
Jean Dujardin as George Valentin: With a primped mustache and a golden grin, Dujardin perfectly fits into the role of "the movie star," especially from an era when good faces with good luck seemed to lead the Hollywoodland charge. Dujardin has a great amount of charisma within this part, and leads the film with a great ability to offer precise feelings without the help of mouth movement. As a gleeful piece of nostalgia, Dujardin is great fun to watch. Score: 8
Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller: The reviews about Bejo's character Peppy are true, especially the ones who exclaim "You'll love her!" Bejo's Miller, with a distinctly beautiful face and general physical grace is just as charming as any other facet of the The Artist, bringing in a consistent sweetness that never goes sour. Bejo gives us a wonderful love interest, and a poignant representation of what it's like to be a darling new face in Hollywood. Score: 8
TALKING: The Artist functions perfectly without its audience being able to hear spoken words. As with silent films, it provides text cards to illuminate some of the movie's dialogue, or leaves less important exchanges up to some mouth-reading, and face-reading. If simple facial expressions still count as tools to having conversations, The Artist has wonderful and very unique dialogue. Score: 8
SIGHTS: Staying true to its inspiration, The Artist nails the look of silent films, and even uses the same aspect ratio that would be used by a film from such an era. The film then goes beyond such requirements to provide captivating wide shots that take advantage of The Artist's large sets, including a large staircase and a theater hall filled with focused individuals. Score: 9
SOUNDS: Leading a year of notable scores (from Drive, The Descendants, Hanna, etc.), The Artist is driven by its music. Unless the film's musical themes want you to, you will not feel emptiness from the lack of voices, sound design, etc. The theme that accompanies George and Peppy during their first on-screen moment is especially beautiful. Composer Ludovic Bource works overtime, and his precision absolutely pays off. Score: 10
BEST SCENE: One of the best scenes of the entire film year is when George is filming "A German Affair" with Peppy appearing in a smaller role. Does love not work like an outtake, an unexpected straying from the script?
ENDING: "With pleasure." The Artist realigns with its Singin' In The Rain path and introduces contagious tap dancing to the film format.
REWATCHABILITY: The first act of The Artist feels great, no matter how many times it is being re-watched. The end of the second act, however, with the downfall of Valentin, drags even more in repeat viewings. Still, don't miss this damn movie!
Taking silent movies back from recent lauded Pixar montages (Up, Wall-E), The Artist is virtually an impossible to hate, gem of a film that builds upon its "silent movie" stylistic choice. Thankfully, The Artist is much more than an isolated throwback for old-timers at heart who miss movies with tight simplicity, or are even in black in white. The Artist invites all to love it, and in possibly its most important feat, instills the desire in audience members to watch films of the real George Valentin's of Hollywood.
The film's belief that life influences cinema (and vice versa) loads The Artist with a seemingly endless amount of delightful winks and nudges, such as when films within the movie reflect the actual relationship of its two characters. This hefty serving of meta movie meat is both the work of an incredibly charming screenplay, and of a writer/director in full control of his unique vision.
The only noticeable dent that distracts from The Artist's near perfect shine is the longevity of character George's downfall. This could be chalked up as a moment in which the sentimentality of writer/director Hazanavicius towards "forgotten" stars overflows. It's a long lull in which The Artist's respect for cliché drama becomes too glaring.
The Artist is an unforgettable crowd-pleaser. It's a gift from Hazanavicius and the perfect cast that he has assembled. It can be a gift from your love of movies as well.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10