The Artist is an absurdly anachronistic film in our age of 3-D cinematic assault. It's silent. It's black and white. And it's delightful.
The film is set in 1927 Hollywood, where George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie star—the speechless George Clooney of his day. He's a suave man's man—deftly escaping the wordless baddies on screen with the help of his trusty Jack Russell terrier. Off screen he has an infectious love affair with himself, spontaneously dancing for a rapt audience or a crowd of reporters and mugging at the life-size portrait of himself in his palatial home. We don't hate him for it; somehow he plays it for charm.
After yet another blockbuster, he finds himself accidentally sharing the red carpet with an adoring fan, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). She uses her five minutes of fame to land herself a bit dancing part in one of Valentin's films. In one scene, George glides his way across the room to a clandestine meeting with a military operative, but keeps getting distracted by his comely costar—requiring take after take. It's a lovely silent seduction.
Peppy and George are obviously drawn to each other, but George is married to Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), a frowning blonde who seems perpetually bored with life and peeved with her husband. While they remain stuck with each other, the movie industry surges ahead with the advent of sound. Valentin's movie company—led by industry suit Al Zimmer (John Goodman at his grimacing, cigar-smoking best)—unceremoniously dumps him and hires a fresh crop of young talking stars, including Peppy. As her career takes off, George struggles to find his place.
Did I mention that all of this unfolds without any words? Seriously, you won't even ...1
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