Oscar reviews: The Artist defies Hollywood conventions with charm and ingenuity

by Jason Madanjian / Beacon Staff • February 23, 2012

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Jean Dujardin as George Valentin
Photo Courtesy of the Weinstein Company
Jean Dujardin as George Valentin
Photo Courtesy of the Weinstein Company
The Artist, a silent, black-and-white movie, has defied modern Hollywood conventions by becoming the breakout film of the awards season, earning the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical and now standing as the favorite for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist stars French actor Jean Dujardin as George Valentin, a silent film star who falls out of popularity as “talkies” replace his livelihood. Dujardin plays Valentin with charming pomposity, milking the applause at the premiere of his latest film. Dujardin comically portrays his character’s over-the-top ego. However, he really comes into character as an actor when Valentin loses his greatest treasure: his fame. Without the use of dialogue, Dujardin lets the audience into the psyche of a fallen star through simple facial expression.

Equally effective with just the slightest of gestures is Bèrènice Bejo as Peppy Miller, a rising young actress who falls in love with Valentin. But tensions rise, as Miller’s fame in talkies augments, while Valentin continues to see his star fade in silent films.

While this dramatic tension is the driving force throughout the story, the film is often humorous. Valentin’s adorable pup, Jack, is his partner-in-crime both on and off screen.

The Artist is a charming homage to the Hollywood of old. Dujardin and director Hazanavicius sell modern audiences on the prospect of the silent cinema thanks to a story filled with romance, drama, humor, and one of the cutest dogs to ever grace the big screen.