The Artist (2011) (PG-13)

If movies like "Forest Gump" and "Titanic" are the crowd-pleasing Best Picture winners, then "The Artist" is the opposite. No body went to see this movie on its release besides the critics and it remains one of the least profitable winners, other than something like "The Hurt Locker". Yet money isn't everything and it's not hard to see why "The Artist" would be a film that not many would go and see.
It's a movie that celebrates film itself, a movie about movies. It resembles other works like "A Star Is Born" or even "Sunset Blvd." to an extent; but it's much more about the silent impact on film and the shift to talking pictures than it is a critique on Hollywood.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is living the high life. It's 1927 and he's the hottest name and the biggest star in tinsel town. A narcissist and a spotlight hog, George plays to the crowd, his adoring public. At a red carpet event one night, trying to promote his new movie, George is attacked by a mob of screaming, excited fans. One of them is Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who accidentally bumps into George and stops the evening's events quickly. George shakes it off and the two smile, the press asks for pictures of them together and Peppy hams it up for the camera.
The next day her picture covers the front of the newspaper with the question: Who's that girl? George doesn't think much of it, but his wife is very displeased with the sight of another woman, then again, we get the idea that his wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller) isn't that pleased about anything.
Riding off the high of her new found fame, Peppy goes to George's film studio, Kinograph, to audition. Her moxie and bright smile quickly land her in with the dancers and she decides to work her way up the film ladder.
George and her meet again on a film set one day and he gives her friendly advice and prevents the studio head from yelling at her. 
She is indebted to him and her film career takes off, starting small and then building quickly. But then comes 1929 and the invention of talking pictures. George believes that talking movies will never catch on, that they're less of an artistic triumph. In this way George seems very reminiscent to Charlie Chaplin, who kept making silent movies long after their time had come.
The studio decides to fire George and replace him with new faces, one of them being Peppy Miller. Hell-bent on making his own movies still, George dips into his own pockets and funds his movie "Tears of Love" which he hopes will be a smashing success. Then the stock market crashes and George is left with the end of a dying era in his hands as Peppy Miller rides out in huge success, winning the people's hearts.
The climax of the movie is quite dark, considering how attractive and how perky it seems. "The Artist" is almost entirely silent, with only the fewest of few speaking moments. The one aspect of the movie that holds it all together is Ludovic Bource's score, which is somewhat in a class of its own because the music is constant in the movie.
Filled with big name actors that round out the supporting cast like John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Malcolm McDowell, "The Artist" never loses the sense of who its lead actor is. The movie belongs to Jean Dujardin.
Yet the silent feel of the movie, the silence literally, can sometimes be distracting, particularly for an action-prepped audience. This is why the film won Best Picture, because it stands out from all the rest. The film's emotion power is very real and many times can be almost overwhelming. The drama, the descent into depression, the old and the's kind of operatic.
"The Artist" is wonderful entertainment and gloriously inventive.

Score: ★★★½

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