Review: The Artist (2011)


Sometimes a great film is just a great story told well. It’s the basis for most certified classics. While I’m not sure The Artist will become a certified classic, it’s still a great story told well. At once a love letter to an era long gone and a story about actors, it’s a beautiful silent film chronicling the decline of a silent movie star and the rise of a young actress in the new talkies. It’s also one of the best films of the year, one that is sure to leave viewers with huge smiles on their faces, cheering as the credits begin to roll.

Jean Dujardin embodies the charisma and angst of George Valentin, a silent movie star nearing the end of his time, and it’s a performance I fully expect to land him an Oscar nomination for best actor. He’s so incredibly expressive, striking a perfect balance between the broad strokes of an older acting style and really getting into the nuance and layers of a man becoming irrelevant in the world. In a way, as brilliant as he is in it, I didn’t feel blown away by him because I was expecting it. What came as a surprise, however, was the beautiful Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller, Valentin’s rival of sorts. There is so much vibrant energy in her performance, and she has a smile that could light the world. She evokes Paulette Goddard in Modern Times, and never once misses a beat. There’s so much life in her performance that she nearly steals the show from Dujardin when she’s on screen.

But really, it is director Michael Hazanavicius and composer Ludovic Bource’ who are the unsung geniuses of the film. Bource’s score just soars, at once evoking classical Hollywood scores of a time long gone and hitting all the right emotional beats in subtle ways that one might expect, but your ears are never rejecting it. It just sounds so right from start to finish. And really, since it is a silent film, it had better be great, since it’s the only thing the audience is going to be hearing. And boy is it wonderful. Michael Hazanavicius makes some really unsung but nonetheless brilliant directorial choices. Over the course of the film, sound effects come into the world a handful of times, and it’s a sleight of hand that Hazanavicius plays with not only to throw the audience off, but Valentin as well. You’ll know it when you see (or hear) it.

Simple? Sure. Predictable? Maybe. Old hat? Not in the least. The Artist is the rare film that sneaks up on the viewer, pulls them in, and never lets them go until the credits roll. Heartfelt, hilarious, gorgeous, and altogether a wonderful piece of filmmaking, it’s one of the best films of the year, and not to be missed. Even the most cynical, hardened viewer will find themselves letting down their guard as it slowly wins them over with it’s delightful charm. If you love great movies, you’ll love The Artist. Encore, encore!

87/100 - Even the most cynical, hardened viewer will find themselves letting down their guard as it slowly wins them over with it’s delightful charm.

Kevin Ketchum

I am a blogger, critic, and writer living in Austin, TX. I first became serious about film after seeing The Lord of the Rings trilogy in its original theatrical run between 2001 and 2003. Since then, film has become my life and there's no better job than writing about what I love.
  • Maria Connie Cipriano

    I loved, loved, loved the Artist! To me, it was the best movie I had seen in years. I tried to explain it to people but it is nearly impossible- when you say a black and white movie without sound, they just look at you strangely for finding that so enjoyable. I was so happy to have had the chance to see it at TIFF and I do think it will be a hit once people see how funny and sweet it is.

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