Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
No matter how many times the awards gurus shock movie audiences and actually honor something outside of the established bore, they will always flock back whenever possible to worship a flick as far as possible from mass appeal. One such example where limited opinion seemed to rule the last Oscars was a period piece in many ways a tribute to the silent era.
While I don’t question the total quality of the finished product, after finally checking out what all the acclaim was about, I still find it difficult to be as excited as those who gave it best picture and actor. Perhaps because the concept of such a style for me will always be set with the greats like Charlie Chaplin and something of a bygone era, in some ways it is missing pieces which have made so many works our favorites. “The Artist” is at times certainly powerful and carries emotions well, though perhaps tries to be a bit too modern in saluting the past.
Set in the late 1920s, the tale is about a successful silent star named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who is pretty well riding fame from one movie to the next. During this ride he meets a spunky and aspiring young woman named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who is not just out for her own fame, but a sign that the format he’s famous through is on it’s way out.
When movie studio boss Al Zimmer (John Goodman) announces a decision to do only talkies it doesn’t take long for Valentin to fall and Miller to rise with a struggle that is indeed hard at times for audiences to not feel some sympathy. Of course, throughout Valentin’s search to find out if he even has a purpose in life anymore, the show is constantly stolen by his canine companion, Jack (A terrier named Uggie). Other than this, the strongest part of the film is actually the music score, which was the only thing really warranting staying awake through the slowest parts.
One of the areas I found greatest fault was the half effort approach at making it a tribute to silent films because only part of the time do you get the black screen dialogue (kind of a huge part of what those old films did), which makes up for not having spoken lines. There were many frustrating moments where you had to pretty much guess what the characters were saying to each other since the lips weren’t always forming words to match the emotions.
As far as a recent film which paid tribute to the early pioneers of the medium, “Hugo” did a far better job with it’s miniature clips than this supposed top submission of the year. In a way it’s sad to say I’m not interested in seeing this again... perhaps warning parents with kids not because of content, but because there may not be enough there to keep their attention. In the end, I’d say it was average, earning a final verdict of three out of five tramps.
DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.