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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Artist | Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell | Review

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  5_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Artist | Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell | Review                                                       

How’s this for a novelty?  The Artist is a (mostly) silent film about the advent of the talkies in Hollywood.  Its two leads are unknown actors here in America, and it’s shot in sepia-toned black and white with subtitles.  You’ll recognize John Goodman as a studio executive and James Cromwell as a dedicated butler/driver/valet.  Everything else you’ll have to discover for the next, delightful 100 minutes.

They say everything old is new again, so it’s a refreshing take on a vintage narrative.  The story’s not original but its presentation is; also daring for the modern audience of texters and tweeters to digest.  There are always going to be militant non-literates out there, those who don’t like to read at any movie.  They will be the ones to miss out on the charming, sub-titled tale of The Artist.

In the classic what-goes-up-must-come -own format of A Star Is Born, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a once-popular silent film star on the wane because of the new wave of “sound” films.  Meanwhile, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is just hitting her stride as a talkie sensation, getting her humble start as an extra in a Valentin silent production.  That’s how the two meet before their fortunes are reversed.

Peppy’s rise is as spectacular as George’s decline is sad but she never forgets her former idol and inspiration.  Her devotion becomes apparent but will it be enough to overcome the fallen actor’s pride?  George’s wife (Penelope Ann Miller) doesn’t stick around as the actor fades, but his irresistible, heroic Jack Russell terrier and his devoted valet (James Cromwell) stay stubbornly by his side, throughout the financial ruin of the stock market crash of 1929 and his subsequent retreat into a booze bottle.

The two leads seem constructed for their roles, with Dujardin exuding the suave, easy panache of debonair superstar.  Bejo’s smile alone seems like it could keep the film going even if the projector’s bulb burned out.  The actors brim with expressive energy whether happy or sad, hooking the viewer into the emotions of their world by sight, not sound.

Cromwell and Goodman provide familiar faces within this new-old territory like travel guides on a first-time journey.

French director Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies) gives us a retro-styled, evocative romance that captures and recreates an era nearly vanished from the minds of modern-day moviegoers.  His film serves as a reminder of where motion pictures came from and their evolution into the color and sound-filled, CGI and 3D mega-projects that we’ve come to expect.

The Artist has none of these and makes just as much of an impact, maybe even more because the technological hoopla is absent but the impact is not.

And therein lies the art.

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