The Artist

 

The Weinstein Company

 

Rating: PG-13

 

Reason for the Rating: A disturbing image and a crude gesture

 

Plot Summary: A star of silent films loses everything when he refuses to join the talking picture craze.

 

PopFam Recommends: This one is surprisingly dull; see it only if your family are fans of old or artsy movies. Otherwise, skip it.

 

Who would have ever thought a silent film would be all the rage in 2012? And a black and white at that! In a time when we have all the CG, HD, and sound effects we want, here comes a movie that takes it all away and gives back something from the past.

 

Set in 1927 Hollywood (or Hollywoodland, as the sign said at the time), George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent film star clearly enjoying his fame. Adored by the press and women, Valentin is living the high life with a continuous eye-catching grin on his face and laughter on his lips. While his public life is quite merry, his marriage has gone cold with a wife who is tired of his antics and self-absorbed ways. Valentin doesn't seem to care, though, as really, it's all about him.

 

After the screening of his latest adventure film, Valentin literally bumps into a fan who mugs for the cameras, planting a kiss on his cheek. A picture of said kiss ends up on the front of Variety the following morning. Emboldened by her front-page picture, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) heads over to the studio and finds herself cast in Valentin's newest moving picture. Recognizing Peppy, and drawn to her personality that reflects her name, Valetin and Peppy begin a friendship that begins her career while his is ending.

 

The Artist is an interesting film, and truthfully, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I love old movies, so the black and white coloring didn't turn me off, but no talking? No sound effects? For 100 minutes? Really? I wasn't sure I could take it. What I discovered was that it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. What DID bother me, was a character mumbling for 10 seconds, only to then read "We're all unhappy" or some such short declaration. But, what I discovered was that when the voice is taken away, the story has more impact.

 

The plot of The Artist is really very simple (some would say dull...), and if dialogue was included, it would have been an awful movie. But facial expression, physical comedy, and watching the dance between two individuals minus all the outside stimulation makes an impression you would otherwise miss.

 

Should it haven nominated for 10 Oscars? For Cinematography, absolutely. It's stunning and artistic in ways that are so reminiscent of old movies. Musical Score? Yes! This is one movie where the music makes the movie. It is the language of the movie, and it is spectacular. Writing (Original Screenplay)? Questionable. How do you compare a screenplay without dialogue to movies with pages and pages of it? Writing conversation is certainly an art that can take a great idea and make it dreadful. Which leads to the Leading Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations. While their facial expressions were animated and conveyed feeling, and the physical acting was superb, actors who have to actually speak have a much more difficult job (in my humble, non-actor, opinion). How many movies have you seen where the bad conversation or delivery makes for a terrible movie? More than you probably care to recall. Which is why I'm not sure Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo should be included in the running for these categories.

 

I love that writer and director Michel Hazanavicius took a chance on this movie and offered us something we would never otherwise experience, a taste of the past in the unique world of silent film. If you see this movie for no other reason, enjoy it for an experience you will probably never have again.

 

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• What about this story is timeless?

 

• George was an adventurer in all his movies, yet stuck in a rut in real life. Would you characterize yourself as an adventurer or afraid to leave your comfort zone? Explain.

 

• Tell about a time God put you in an uncomfortable position, but the change it made was for the best.

 

--JW

 

Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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