Quiet on the Set
The Artist tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the biggest (fictional) movie star of his day. At the premiere of his latest film, he literally bumps into Peppy Miller (the adorable Bérénice Bejo), and when she's photographed with George, she becomes a tabloid sensation. Over the next couple years, as sound becomes a force in the movie industry, George's pride prevents him from changing with the times, while Peppy slowly rises in the industry, her roles growing larger and larger. Will Peppy melt George's heart and convince him to get on board?
That this film has nearly everything working against it — it's French, it's silent, it's in black and white, etc. etc. — and yet it still works, and does so beautifully, is something of a miracle. Dujardin gives an impressive, expressive performance, and Bejo, well, she's just a pleasure to watch. If you don't fall in love with her during the scene where she acts opposite a coat rack in George's dressing room, then you've got no heart. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius uses conventions of those early days (a dog, the score) and mixes in some modern touches, like smart use of sound effects, to convey what a change it was. Like in Singin' in the Rain (which, by the way, is my all-time favorite movie), some of the films and elements of the industry are played for laughs (particularly the opening scene, which has elements liberally borrowed from Singin' in the Rain), but it's all done with love. And the final scene will just make you stand up and cheer.
That The Artist is so many people's favorite movie of 2011 is no surprise. But for me, it's not quite there. I think it's a little bit too long, and, well, I guess I found some of it a little hokey. But The Artist is certainly a wonderful film, a more than pleasant surprise, and it's well worth seeing. I'm giving it a B+.