Wednesday, February 15, 2012

film review: The Artist

The backstory: The Artist is nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director. It's already won Best Picture at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice Awards.

The basics: Set in 1927, The Artist is the story of George Valentin, an enormously famous silent film star. It traces George's fate as talkies begin to dominate the film industry.

My thoughts: I took many film courses in college, and I've sat through more silent films than I wish I had. (While there are some that stand up to my modern viewing sensibilities, most I would have preferred to see clips from.) I think even those only familiar with silent films in the abstract aspect will understand their conventions in this film and enjoy the seemingly inside jokes about silent films.

I hoped The Artist would move beyond its conventions and provide a modern take on silent film. I hoped it would explore the human condition in a meaningful way. It didn't, but despite these misgivings, there is a lot of good in this film. Jean Dujardin was amazing. He embodied the era in pose, facial expressions and tap dance. Berenice Bejo was every bit his equal, expect in screen time. The two had chemistry, humor and were delightful to watch. While the acting was excellent, the most interesting part of the film was how it played with sound. The few scenes in which the film stepped out of the confines of being a silent movie were inventive and inspired, but they were ultimately overshadowed by the film's predictability that rendered it mostly ordinary.

Where the film stalled, however, was in its storyline. Once the stage was set (and the first hour of the film is excellent), it took the humor, joy and pain and turned authentic emotion into melodrama. It didn't work for me, but I am clearly in the minority.

The verdict: Despite a strong premise, ultimately The Artist was too predictable and melodramatic to allow its excellent acting to truly shine.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 100 minutes
Release date: it's in theaters now (see where it's playing near you)
Source: I paid to see at the Fleur Cinema (for only $6.50--I love Des Moines!)

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25 comments:

  1. I don't think I could handle a movie like this --just not my style. Sorry it wasn't a favorite of yours.

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  2. I've sort of wanted to see this but have been hesitant because it's a silent film and I figured I might get bored with it. So I'm disappointed to hear its not amazing. On the other hand this means that maybe EL&IC really does have a good chance of winning, yay! ;)

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    1. Jenny- I haven't seen EL&IC yet because I *still* haven't read the book. I'm pulling for The Descendents as of now, but I've only seen three of the Best Picture nominated films this year.

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  3. I have heard some good things about this one, but I am not sure if it's for me. I have a hard time with silent films, and sometimes it's hard for me to maintain my connection to them. Perhaps this one might be better for me on video. Very candid and thoughtful review today. Thanks!

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    1. It might be nice on video. I will say it felt longer than it's hour and forty minutes, and I think that may be (partly) to do with it being silent. The novelty wore off quickly!

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  4. Carrie, we have similar tastes, and I'm afraid I'll feel the same way about this film. I'm sorry to read that it didn't work for you. Will give it a go but not holding my breath. :)

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    1. I think it's worthy seeing because it is trying to pay homage and (sort of) do something new. It's an interesting part of the discussion of contemporary film, but it's not a classic to me (so it will probably win, as I have unpopular taste:-)

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  5. I felt the same way. The premise was interesting, and (like you said) the first hour or so was very good. But I was hoping that they'd do a bit more with it--expand even further on the idea of sound. Once I realized it wasn't going to break into excellence, it became pretty predictable. Good performances, but not very memorable film.

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    1. I completely concur! If only they let us vote for the Oscars...

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  6. I'm not usually in the loop on new movies, but I've been seeing this everywhere. I think I'm going to give it a go just because it's a little different than what I normally get into. From an actors perspective, I wonder how difficult it is to appear in a role where you don't speak this day and age? I'd be interested to find interviews after seeing it.

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    1. Beth - I was mesmerized by the performances, particularly of the actors I'd seen in other things! I'll be curious to see how you like it once you see it!

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  7. I liked this one. I'm a fan of old movies and it was refreshing to see something done in that style when so many movies nowadays rely of big special effects and CGI. I agree with you about it being predictable. I could have handle a slightly better plot, but I still liked it.

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    1. Given most of the blockbuster fare, I agree it was better. But after adoring The Descendents on every level, The Artist isn't in the same ballpark for me.

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  8. I agree with you. Enjoyable and light but very forgettable. I am surprised that this movie is getting so much acclaim. Best Picture? Really?

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    1. Gayle, as much as I love and obsess over film and book awards, I all-too-often find myself saying, "really?," which *really* is part of the fun sometimes!

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  9. I'm been wondering if I should even watch this. I don't feel too captivated by the synopsis but with all the nominations, I want to check it out too.

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    1. Aths, I think it's worth seeing, and it's under two hours. Snuggle and the couch and eat something loud while you watch it!

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  10. Every year my husband and I say that we are going to see all the nominated best picture films, and every year we fail to do it...this year, there is no chance since when the list was announced we had not seen one film on it yet, lol.
    We have since seen a few, but not this one...I am envious of your $6.50 movie price...here it is $13, so we tend to be very picky about what we see...

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    1. I have that goal too and almost made it a few years ago. Now I settle for trying to see them all before the *next* Oscars. Typically, though, I most enjoy the films with nominees in the Best Actress category, so I focus on those first:-)

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  11. I've read mixed reviews about this film. I will probably wait until it comes out on DVD to watch it. Thanks for the review!

    In other news, I tagged you in this silly game of blogger tag. Don't feel obligated to participate! I just wanted to let you know that you were loved :)

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  12. This film seems to be everywhere at the moment, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy it. Your review confirms this - I'm not a fan of melodrama.

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    1. Jackie - I think you'd hate it! I'd advise you to stay away;-)

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  13. I really want to see this but I think I will save this for the Netflix pile!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!