‘The Artist’: Go for the dog, stay for the movie

I used to love nothing more than to lose myself at the movies. But there hasn’t been much worth justifying the drive and the price, especially when you can watch at home. And no matter the venue, I’m usually disappointed. Seems if a movie half-tries, it’s proclaimed a masterpiece.

So despite all the buzz about the French silent movie The Artist, hadn’t gotten around to seeing it. But once I saw one of its stars, a Jack Russell named Uggie, was getting lots of press, I put it at the top of my list.

Never been a fan of silent movies. Not that I’ve seen many. Always thought they were too schmaltzy and slow. And though I once had an Italian film teacher who contended any good film doesn’t need sound, I never totally bought into that.

So I went for the dog. The loyal sidekick was endearing — as only Jack Russells can be.

And the movie? First I thought it was tedious. That I’d have to work too hard at body language to get the story. That’s how lazy and dependent I’d become. We’d all become. Too many effects. No enough focus on acting.

And then I was drawn in. Best movie of the year? Wouldn’t go that far. But definitely a charming diversion.

The fact that it was an homage to silent movies within an authentic silent movie was a neat turn. And that the French director was able to slow today’s technology down to the point of evoking 1920’s Hollywood was in itself a very special effect.

The production and the music were fabulous. It was a visual love letter to Hollywood. And a treat to see familiar sites like the Paramount Studios lot, where I once worked, frozen in a bygone era.

And fun to see old faves John Goodman, James Cromwell and Malcolm McDowell in a different light — in black and white. As silent film stars. Quite a departure from Babe, Six Feet Under, Roseanne and A Clockwork Orange.

As for the leads, Frenchman Jean Dujardin was a showstopping mixture of Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Gene Kelly and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper. Berenice Bejo, the director’s wife, was cute as Dujardin’s love interest.

The premise — as old as films have been around — needed some spark to give it new life. Also, she didn’t electrify the screen like he did, IMO. And I didn’t find their chemistry totally convincing.

That’s why the film ultimately didn’t work for me.

But I give Uggie a four-paws-up for his tireless performance.

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6 Responses to ‘The Artist’: Go for the dog, stay for the movie

  1. Interesting Laura! I too, NOT a fan of silent movies and haven’t ran out to see this one…I too, spent, a lot of time in movie theaters but it’s such a hassle to GET to one…parking makes the entire experience too difficult for me…perhaps I will see this one…but it’ll be on my TV!…And yes, my TV is one of the oldies but goodies..about 25 yrs. old to be exact! I hear a blog comin’ on..haha

  2. CMrok93 says:

    This was a very well-made film and had its moments where it captures the whole spirit and essence of the silent film era but it’s not that life-changing experience that everybody says it is. Still, a good flick though and I do think it does still deserve the Best Picture Oscar just because I don’t think The Descendants would be a very good winner that will last for the ages. Good review.

    • Thanks for saying it so well. Confess I haven’t yet seen “The Descendants.” I totally agree a Best Picture award should be given to a movie that can stand the test of time. Sadly, they seem to be harder and harder to find.

  3. Gardner's World says:

    Although The Artist is set in the past, the concept of a person who was once highly regarded being cast aside, in the face of technological change, to be replaced by a younger model, strikes a chord with many in the current era. The fact the two lead characters work together to overcome this is one of many positive messages that people take from the movie.

    • Appreciate the comment, which is well-taken. Yes, the technological change did resonate; but unfortunately, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

      I thought the ending, while very nice, was hard to believe. Shame, because who doesn’t love uplifting endings? Maybe because I thought the “Peppy Miller” character was “peppy” enough, but lacked depth … But that’s just me.

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