“The Artist” is 2011′s critical darling film… the movie which was heralded from the moment it was released as being the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s a (semi) silent film, shot in black and white, which tells the story of a star of the silent era silver screen. When Oscar noms were released yesterday, it received a whopping 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius), Best Actor (Jean Dujardin), and Best Supporting Actress (Bérénice Bejo).
The question I am here to answer now is… is it worth all the fuss?
Yeah, that was really, really good.
First of all, they really work the “silent” aspect of the film in well. This isn’t a movie where they just decided to “make a silent movie” as a throwback or a whim or a gimmick. “The Artist” has a story to tell and themes to express, and the silent film aspect of it is inseparable from those purposes.
A silent movie star, George Valentin, played (masterfully) by French actor Jean Dujardin, runs into a bright young ingenue literally by accident. The girl, Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, quickly steals his heart. As fate would have it though, their paths are heading in opposite directions. Valentin, long a star of the silent era, is about to be ushered out. The “Talkies” have arrived and with the new technology the studios want fresh meat. Enter Miller. As her star ascends, his wanes, and it makes the two would be lovers star-crossed.
So we watch as one falls from favor and the other reaches the top, and along the way, the film really establishes the emotional stakes. Without being able to rely on dialogue, the movie relies instead on constantly putting its characters into emotive situations, and then letting you connect with how they feel as opposed to what they say. It’s cleverly done, very well executed, and by the end you’ll certainly be invested in both of them.
The story itself… I’ll just say… it’s not the most intricate plotting in the world. But this isn’t a movie about plot, it’s about people.
Dujardin and Bejo will charm and mug and dance their way into your good graces. They’re unstoppable forces of movie enjoyment. You’ll feel the joy when they’re gleeful, you’ll feel the sorrow when they’re sad. Dujardin is a treat to watch as the smug, debonair superstar, and then he elicits real pathos from the audience as a man who’s lost it all. They’re joined in action by one of the coolest trained dogs I’ve ever seen on-screen as well.
There’s dancing and swashbuckling and romance, yes. But the film takes a very unexpectedly serious turn towards the end that gives the film a considerable bit more weight than if it had wound up a happy fluff piece. It winds up being a movie that’s not afraid to explore all angles of fame, including the ego crushing absence of it once its gone. It’s a great movie, completely entertaining and enjoyable, with an ending that really takes everything to a whole different level.
Thankfully, I wont have to reissue the MAJOR Award for Best Picture, “The Descendants” is still my favorite film of 2011. (Phew!) I found “The Descendants” every bit as entertaining, with more to say. But this easily would have made my top ten, Hell, my top five, had I seen it in time. I don’t know if it WILL win the Oscar for Best Picture, but if it does, this won’t be one of those years where I begrudge the winner. Not in the least. Dujardin and Bejo would definitely deserve their statuettes should they win, as well, although I think there were better certainly directors this year than Hazanavicius…
This is a phenomenal movie, highly recommended, I have no hesitation in awarding it the coveted