'The Artist' (PG-13) (4 STARS) (Highest Rating)
Written and Directed By Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Penelope Ann Miller, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Ed Lauter, Missy Pyle, Malcolm McDowell
This has been an unique year for showing that the love of the history of film can be a powerful thing. First Martin Scorsese gave us a valentine to the early birth of cinema with "Hugo" and now comes the brilliant "The Artist". I loved this movie more than words can say for it's loving look at the golden age of silent film. It is a beautiful looking, perfectly acted movie with a period detail that is flawless and breathtaking. I fear this will have the same effect it had on me only for movie goers that are into film history or silent film. I do have faith that it will delight, entertain and put a huge smile on everyone's face. "The Artist" is why we go to the movies, to fall in love with cinema all over again.
"The Artist" gives us the story of silent film star George Valentin, an actor in the mold of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. George is a huge star who acts in a lot of movies and one day he bumps into an ordinary woman from a crowd of fans. Her name is Peppy Miller and after that bump Peppy goes to some auditions for movie extras. Before you know it she becomes a movie star on her own and George is smitten with her. I will not give much more away for this movie is so great because of it's surprises. I can tell you there is a scene stealing dog named Uggie and that the dawn of a new age of movie called "The Talkie" will change George's career and life.
"The Artist" is a mix of a number of silent film genres including comedy, melodrama and love story. I guess there is backlash for this movie because it is said to be superficial with too many tonal shifts. I disagree and loved every facet and moment of this valentine to silent film. WIith this and my earlier review of "We Bought A Zoo" why can't critics get the so called stick out of their butts? Anyway I was with this movie every step of the way. I loved the beautiful black and white photography, the music, the pitch perfect acting and the pristine period detail. I was amazed by every perfect article of clothing, every piece of furniture and the flawless recreations of all kinds of silent movies.
The director is Michel Hazanavicious who has only made a couple of french spy spoof movies and I was not prepared for this masterpiece of his. He nails everything right here and if you showed this movie to an audience and you didn't tell them it was made today I swear you could make them think this was a real silent movie from the 20's. All the things I mentioned about all the flawless recreations are due to Hazanavicious's care, heart, precision and dedication to detail.
The acting is also amazing and Jean Dujardin is an actor I had only seen once in one of those french spy spoof films. His acting is flawless and he has to run the gamut of emotions including happiness, failure, sadness and depression and does a wonderful job. The real find here is Berenice Bejo as Peppy who amazed me with her grace, beauty, comic and dramatic precision. She is also easy on the eyes and brings an effortless charm to the role, you will fall in love with her. She reminds me of Marion Davies who was a major silent film actress. Dujardin's and Bejo's facial expressions and the way they capture every emotion without speaking is amazing and the reason they will both be nominated and might even win an Oscar. There are also great performances by Penelope Ann Miller, James Cromwell, John Goodman and that dog who was fantastic.
I think this movie might get backlash for not really producing any deep love or any emotional connection to the story and the characters. I think that view is completely wrong and I hope it doesn't happen. This is a beautiful movie to look at with a story that got to me and made me fall in love with the movie and fall in love with the power of movies all over again. I actually went back in the theatre to see this movie twice to confirm that I loved this movie and heck if I didn't even love it more the second time!
"The Artist" is a throwback to the magic of old movies and the golden age of cinema that makes all the crap I have seen this year dissapear. It is funny to think that the upcoming Oscar telecast will go back to old school Hollywood and will be hosted by Billy Crystal. I say this because don't be surprised if "The Artist" wins Best Picture, Actor, Actress and Director at this year's Oscars.