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The Artist

The Artist

What She said:

She

A silent movie….*cue audible groan here*.  That’s right, I really had no interest in watching The Artist because yes, I’m a closed minded movie snob who believes in the power of words.  But, as a semi-professional (I’m being idealistic I know) movie reviewer, I knew that it was my responsibility to subject myself to 1 hour and 40 minutes of torture and report back to you all on this. 

We didn’t even get a minute into the movie before The He exclaimed, “Wait, this is a silent movie???  I thought it was just ABOUT silent movies.”  No, it’s a silent movie.  However, The Artist isn’t 100 minutes of complete blankness.  There’s a rich musical score that sort of takes the place of dialogue, telling a story through its orchestral swells and lulls.  And yes, I admit it The Artist manages to actually have a plot.  It’s not just a bunch of people goofing off and making silly faces.  Yes, there is some of that.  But the movie actually has a linear story that the viewer can follow through to a fulfilling culmination. 

The Artist is meta.  It’s a silent film about the silent film industry.  Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a highly successful silent movie star who is at the top of his game.  Bérénice Bejo plays his counterpart, Peppy Miller.  While Valentin is well established, Peppy is just starting out, and she owes much of her success to George.  Peppy and George also have a lot of chemistry, by the way, even though George is already trapped in a loveless marriage.  Then 1929 arrives and we enter a new era for movies, one with sound.  George has little interest in this, and believes that silent movies will never go away.  Peppy embraces the new age and becomes its darling.  As George watches his life fall apart—his wife walking out, money disappearing, and falling into the depths of alcoholism—Peppy is more successful than ever.  Peppy, driven by her love for George, tries to help him overcome his failures and reignite his career. There’s also this cute dog in the movie, which always helps.

In a way, The Artist is about embracing all forms of film.  It shows that George was right, it is possible to create an engaging and story-rich silent film.  And yet the film also remains pretty light.  Lots of smiling and dancing and cutesy cutesy.  If it wasn’t for some of the darker themes, I’d think it was too cutesy cutesy, but things are evened out slightly.  Overall, I was surprised by how I managed to actually like this movie.  If you approach it with an open mind, you’ll quickly get sucked in.  And looking back, you might even forget that there really isn’t any dialogue.

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

I don’t know about you, but whenever I come across a best picture winner or even nominee the expectations are always raised. There just comes a certain level of increased expectations for a film when it is considered one of the year’s best.

I didn’t really know much about The Artist going into it. I knew it was in black and white, had something to do with silent films, and was the darling of this year’s awards shows. I did not know a whole lot about it and wasn’t all that interested in what the Hollywood crowd was telling me was great; because I don’t always agree with the types of movies that are nominated.

The movie opens up with a crowd in a theater watching a feature film. There is large orchestra at the front of the theater right below the screen. “Oh cool, they’re watching a silent movie”, I thought. The film ends and its stars walk out on stage to greet the crowd and it is then I realized something. The movie wasn’t simply about silent films, it was a silent film! “Well this should be interesting”, I thought. I have seen snippets of old silent movies, but never actually sat down and watched one from start-to-finish.

The Artist tells the story of silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). He is the actor of his generation. He is in anything and everything that matters. He is a master at his craft and he knows it; though you can’t help and find the guy charming. He is funny, engaging, and just about everybody – except his wife – likes him.

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is one of his many fans and also an aspiring actress. Fate puts the two together when they end up working together on a movie. They have instant chemistry, but end up getting separated when George’s movie studio tells him that they are switching over to “talkies”. He thinks it is nothing more than a fad and ends up parting ways with his employer. He plans to continue making silent movies, but will now also serve as producer of his own movies.

While his career seems to be on the decline, Peppy’s seems to be taking off. She is the new darling of Tinseltown. Audiences absolutely adore her much in the same way they used to George.

The two bump into one another every so often as their careers continue to head in different directions. They clearly have feelings for one another, but George is married and his fading career – coupled with her rising fame – seems to prevent anything from happening.

I think it was just a few minutes into the movie when I realized I was in for a treat. This was a very funny and charming movie. That may sound weird considering the characters don’t have a whole lot to say, but the wonderful score and genuinely engaging performances make it a winner. The body language and facial expressions coming from the actors make you almost forget it’s a silent movie.

The movie also had the perfect amount of drama as Valentin’s career goes down the crapper. The movie is very light and cheery most of the time, but had just the right amount of drama to add a little depth to it.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on July 18, 2012.