Editor's Note: The Oscar-winning “The Artist” returns to theaters this weekend. This review originally ran in the Jan. 20, 2012, edition of The Oklahoman.
A love letter to silent cinema, “The Artist” features the career of a Douglas Fairbanks-esque movie star and the effect the introduction of sound has on his career. In a gimmicky but brilliant move, the black-and-white film is itself a silent movie.
Jean Dujardin is all smiles and bright eyes as silent movie star George Valentin as the movie begins. He's perfectly cast; he absolutely looks as if he could have existed in 1927 cinema. His slicked-back hair and perfectly styled mustache highlight his charming, roguish style and his devil-may-care attitude. The Jack Russell terrier that plays Valentin's sidekick is adorable and a high point of the film.
Valentin's chance encounter with dancer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) gives her career a kick-start, but before long, the sound movies preferred by studio head Al Zimmer (John Goodman) leave Valentin on his own.
Valentin sinks his money into one last gamble, a silent film that will show the world why he should still be a star. But times have changed, and Valentin finds himself in worse and worse straits, certainly not helped along by the stock market crash. Meanwhile, the appropriately named Peppy Miller becomes a star, with her zest for life taking hold on the screen. Technology marches forward, creating opposite effects in the lives of these two actors.
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, Missi Pyle, John Goodman (A disturbing image and a crude gesture.)