Movie Review: “The Artist”

I had planned to do another post on a different topic, but I saw this movie yesterday and decided to post a review about it instead. Disclaimer: I watched this on TV and missed the first 30 minutes, and usually movies are edited for time and/or content when they’re aired on TV, so maybe I’m not completely qualified to review this movie. However, the parts I did see I genuinely liked, and I wanted to write about that.

The Artist is a silent, black-and-white film from 2011 (yes, you read that right, 2011) that tells the story of George Valentin, a famed silent movie actor who begins to fade into oblivion upon the arrival of talking movies. About the same time that he is losing fame, his young co-star Peppy Miller, whom he helped to land her first role in the movies, is all the rage and becomes a big star of the new talking movies. With his downslide in popularity, his wife’s decision to leave him, and the Great Depression, George sinks into a depression of his own, but Peppy is determined to help him just as he once helped her. But will he let her?

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this. I was definitely interested in watching it because, well, who would have thought to make a silent, black-and-white movie in 2011? This is the era of big-budget blockbuster thrillers with as much CGI as you can conceivably stuff into a two-and-a-half-hour time slot! However, I had heard some critics say it was over-hyped and not as good as everyone else was saying it was. I’m not sure what everyone else was saying about it, but personally I enjoyed it. It told an interesting, thought-provoking story–what were some of the reactions of silent film actors once sound could be included? I remember hearing that Lon Chaney wasn’t too keen on the idea of talking in a movie, and seeing George’s downward spiral made me wonder if there had been other actors like him, unable to accept or adapt to the new way and becoming unintended victims of progress.

One of the things that especially grabbed my attention was the…authenticity, I think, is the word I want. The Artist managed to capture the spirit and feel of the silent film era, which is quite an astounding feat! Several times I found myself forgetting that this was made four years ago; it felt like a film made during the actual 1920’s. Another feature I liked was the genuine friendship between George and Peppy. They loved each other, but it felt like less of a romantic love and more like the love between two friends who have seen each other through good times and bad. With so much emphasis placed on romantic love in most movies, it was nice to see good old fashioned friendship being celebrated for a change.

Would I recommend The Artist? Keeping in mind that I missed the first half-hour, I still would recommend it. Silent films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it told an interesting story and, in my opinion, is worth seeing.

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