Friday, January 27, 2012

Silence Is Golden: Our Review of "The Artist" (2011)

Directed By: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Synopsis: In the late 1920s, silent movie megastar George Valentin (Dujardin) inadvertently discovers an up-and-coming actress, Penny Miller (Bejo). Soon after, the introduction of sound to motion pictures causes George to become obsolete, while Penny flourishes as the face of "talkies."


Andrew: Last night Sarah and I saw "The Artist" at our local AMC Theatres, mainly because this movie is the presumptive front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar. It won Golden Globes a couple of weeks ago for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy, Best Actor - Musical or Comedy for Jean Dujardin's performance, and it won Best Original Score. So, Sarah, do you think "The Artist" deserves the accolades it has been receiving?

Sarah: I do, and here’s why: It was new. It was different. When people go to movies nowadays they know what they are going to get. A story, famous actors and above all, dialogue! With this movie you get something totally different. The silence is golden in this film. 

For me, it was all about the nostalgia. I actually felt like a giddy girl back in the 20s and 30s going to the movies on a Friday night with my beau.

A: Well I wouldn't say that it was "new" per se, but it was definitely different. I completely agree on the nostalgia part. Right from the start with the opening credits it looked and felt exactly like an old RKO picture from the 1920s. Director Michel Hazanavicius nailed that aspect of the film. I mean, as soon as the opening credits started, the two of us started smiling.

S: I think that had to do with Jean Dujardin. He had this infectious smile that literally lit up the room. I believe that he deserves the Oscar that he will receive. I know that one thing you had trouble with was the simplicity of the storyline. Wanna talk about that?

A: Sure. One of the few negative things I have to say about "The Artist" is that it's an incredibly simple plot. I never felt a sense of urgency for George in his plight of losing his stardom as a silent film actor. It was almost too by the numbers. But honestly, as I sit here and write this review, I start thinking of the little things, the nuances in George's story and I think my immediate reaction last night was wrong.

I originally thought that they could have gone further with George being too proud to venture into talkies, but then I think about all the crap he has to go through (which I won't spoil here) and maybe I missed the original point. It comes off as a romance movie, but it’s really about a man who spirals down into nothingness and finally getting over his pride. It's all the bad things that happen that I sort of glossed over upon us leaving the theatre.

S: Wow, well that wasn't what I expected. I agree with you, it was all about the little nuances. The more I think about it, I think that the pride thing could have been played up a little more but it really was all about taking the viewer back to a simpler time in life.

A: Now, you’ve mentioned Dujardin's smile, which brings me to this question: I felt that Dujardin and Berenice Bejo were perfectly cast because they were the movie. What did you think of their performances?

S: I think that Dujardin perfectly embodied a 1920s silent film star; which is to say that he was perfectly cast for the role. I felt like Bejo was a little modern for the role, but she perfectly played a young starlet in love with a man from a different era. But let's be honest, the dog stole the show. He made me want to rush out and buy a little terrier! Reader, if you have a soft spot for well-trained animals in movies, then you will love this film! Way better than just another horse that can hit its mark.

A: The dog was cute, I want one just like him now, too. But let's focus on Dujardin, because he truly was the star of the show. Before we saw this movie I had no idea who would win the Oscar for Best Actor, but it's clear to me now that Dujardin should win in a landslide for these reasons:

·      He's French, but his enunciation of the English language was impeccable. I could read his lips perfectly. The 1920s-esque subtitles were almost unnecessary. (UPDATE: Right before editing this post, Sarah read a quote from Dujardin in our latest Entertainment Weekly, “Sometimes I acted in English, sometimes in French, and sometimes I was just speaking complete jibberish.” Okay, so maybe scratch that last point by me.)
·      He had to act primarily with his facial expressions because he's playing a silent movie star, and he nailed it. He contorted his face and mugged for the camera so much you could've sworn he really was a star in Old Hollywood. Especially his smile and his eyebrows. He looked so cool.
·      Last, but not least, while we were watching the movie I kept thinking, "He's doing a great job, but he has no dialogue." And I believed that he should be marked down because of that. But then I realized that yeah, you can't HEAR what he's saying, but that doesn't mean he wasn't speaking the dialogue while filming because he was! And that goes back to his enunciation. He had to speak the lines like you normally would to get the necessary emotions across, otherwise it would have rang false. But he nailed it. I totally forgot that he was French while watching the movie. That's a testiment to his acting ability. (UPDATE: Same as the last one. Looks like Clooney’s right back in it for me.)

S: I agree! His enunciation was amazing considering I have heard him speak and he seriously has a strong French accent. 
Now, since I have heard him speak I had a hard time not picturing him with a French accent. Bejo, on the other hand, I know she has a French accent but since I haven't heard her voice, all I could picture her with was as this Southern Californian girl with an American accent. Your typical “girl next door.” They were both impressive and I think they both deserve all the accolades that they have gotten.

A: Well we've talked about how the actors did in their non-speaking roles, but we've neglected the part of the movie you DO hear - the music. Personally I loved it. It was fun when it needed to be, it was dramatic when he needed to be, it just worked.

S: I agree for the most part. It was a little campy for me at times, but I think it was supposed to be. It was quaint and completely different from most blockbuster movies. 

All right readers, I know that I haven't given very much input on this review. I think this is a lesson to be learned that we need to write the review the night that we see the movie so that all the information is fresh and vibrant. Lesson learned and it will not happen again!

A: Good point. We were really chatty leaving the theatre and now we're both struggling to remember what we said! Let's wrap this review up then. What's our final rating for "The Artist?”

S: To get the full impact you need to need to See It In The Theatres! It will be great to have on our collection shelf one day but it’s not one that we pull out on a quiet evening to just watch for the sake of it.

(Out of Five)

Next Post: Hopefully we will see one of the following movies this weekend, with a review to follow: "The Grey," "Haywire," or "A Dangerous Method."

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