Yes, we’ve all heard it already. It didn’t deserve to win Best Picture. It didn’t deserve all of its accolades. Now go away and tell us about how you don’t care about the Oscars, hypocrite. Now that we’ve gotten past the whining, “The Artist” is a film that is generally one of the finest films of 2011. It was a year of utterly underwhelming pictures, and “The Artist” took the accolades left and right because it was and still is a deserving ode to the era of cinema that left many actors out in the cold once sound was introduced to an eager audience. Even as a silent picture it works in developing rich and empathetic characters along with a truly sweet and heart warming story about friendship and love and remembering those who helped you rise to stardom.
“The Artist” invokes the classic silent films of the golden age of cinema by providing a truly engrossing and inspiring narrative about characters we can really care for and evoke passion for even after the credits have finished rolling. As a film, “The Artist” is a charismatic and often magical love letter to Hollywood, and while some may argue the film opts on too much optimism, it’s an optimism that’s refreshing and void of syrupy naïveté. Michel Hazanavicius collects a truly gifted cast to convey a story that touches on a plight in entertainment business that ruined the lives of many stars. Jean Dujardin is fantastic as big screen star George Valentin. A heartthrob in every sense of the word, he commands the silent films he stars in with his loyal and faithful dog.
One day in the midst of a photo op he accidentally creates a star in the gorgeous and wide eyed fan girl Peppy Miller who takes part in a photo with Valentin. This skyrockets her in to fame and we’re able to follow her ascent from bit player in to top billed star. As the introduction of talkies make their way in to Hollywood, Peppy finds her footing as a bonafide actress, while Valentin is sadly finding out that he’s a relic and soon descends in to poverty and depression. “The Artist” perfectly balances the parallels between the two characters lives as both stars provide absolutely excellent performances that stand on their own while perfectly playing off one another whenever they share the screen. What helps invoke the atmosphere of classic silent films is that Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo actually resemble classic movie stars, and they approach their roles with as much devotion to the narrative as they can muster up.
Bérénice Bejo is beautiful and absolutely adorable as the sweet Peppy Miller who discovers a lot about herself when she rises to fame. And along the way she learns she might just be losing sight of who she is as a person and a once hungry artist. Valentin’s descent in to alcoholism and poverty is truly heartbreaking as his devoted butler Clifton (as beautifully played by James Cromwell) refuses to leave his side, in spite of his inability to pay him, let alone feed himself. As for the dog, the stunt animal Uggie is magnificent and manages to provide a sense of conscious and heart as his master Valentin quickly loses his faith in mankind and himself.
What really matters when “The Artist” fades to black is that it tells a truly life affirming and compelling story about two people who help keep each other grounded and alive, and in the end they use that as a way to re-ignite their passion for film. Every now and then in an age of darkness and cynicism, a life affirming film is just what we need. Director Michel Hazanavicius creates a truly excellent and absolutely endearing drama about two people who find love and loss but keep their love for cinema alive no matter what. “The Artist” is a wonderful re-visit to the age of the silent films and is an experience that warrants a large audience.