Friday, December 23, 2011

Movie Review: "The Artist"

I wish we didn't live in a world where hype existed. Whenever possible, I try to see movies and read books fairly soon after they're released, and avoid most reviews so I don't have any preconceived notions in my mind. But when you follow the entertainment world like I do, there's no escaping hearing which movies and books are being hailed by critics, especially around year-end. All of that preface to say I came to The Artist knowing it's one of the favorites to win the Oscar for Best Picture, as it has been the winner of, or is a nominee for, many major critics' awards.

Is it worth all the hype? No, and maybe, yes.

It's 1927, during Hollywood's Golden Age, when silent movies are at their heyday. Debonair George Valentin (played with a mischievous twinkle by Jean Dujardin) is one of the most popular stars, charming audiences both on and offscreen (although not his wife). One day during an autograph session, a fan named Peppy Miller (the vivaciously adorable Berenice Bejo) winds up in George's spotlight, much to his amusement. The two share some sweet chemistry, and their encounter leads to Peppy's employment as an extra, and then supporting character, in many of his films. Then, as Hollywood gets caught up with the new talking pictures, Peppy's popularity (say that five times fast) explodes, while George, who believes talking pictures are just a fad, is left to lanugish in failure, losing everything, except his trusted dog. But Peppy is determined to save George at any cost, which leads to the film's most dramatic moments, as well as its breathless and unexpected finale.

In case you hadn't heard, The Artist is an (almost completely) silent movie, like a souvenir of the era it captures. It is a beautifully shot film, and the acting is appropriately over the top, as silent movie acting was in Hollywood's days of yore. And while I was utterly taken in by the film's charm and its artistry, in the end, its silence robbed me a bit of its heart. To me, The Artist is like a beautiful meringue dessert—lovely to look at and enjoyable to consume, but in the end, it doesn't fill you up. But it's well worth seeing, for Dujardin and Bejo's performances, and the uniqueness of the experience.

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