November 20, 2014
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The Artist
Don Fowler
4 stars
Reviewer's Rating:

(Romantic, unique, silent movie)

We've all seen those old black and white silent movies, filled with overacting, drama and not a word spoken.

Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius has brought together a wonderful group of French and American actors to recreate the style of the "oldies,” complete with background music, a few sound effects, a square picture and lots of emotion and emoting.

The story is corny, but that's OK. French star Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, silent movie idol of the ’20s, who packs them into the theatre to see his latest exploits. He discovers Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), his next leading lady, who quickly moves up the star ladder from unknown to extra to chorus girl to supporting roles to star.

Meanwhile, his director (John Goodman) has decided that Talkies would replace silent films, and George was a thing of the past. Peppy goes on to become a big star, while George sinks into oblivion.

Sound corny and a bit familiar?

It is, but that is part of the charm in this wonderful, unique, romantic film. You quickly fall into the charm of the old movies, complete with the signboards when needed to fill in the dialogue and the sweeping gestures to suggest the characters' feelings.

Penelope Miller plays George's wife, who leaves him when the Depression hits and he loses everything. His loyal butler (James Cromwell) sticks with him, as does his dog.

Uggie, the delightful Jack Russell terrier, steals every scene he is in...and he is in many.

Can George make a comeback and, with the help of Penny, regain his dignity?

"The Artist" is melodrama with lots of pizzazz and a little tongue-and-cheek, but for the most part it is played straight. There is great attention to detail, giving you the feeling that it was a silent movie made in the ’20s. The automobiles, movie sets, costumes and everything about it will bring you back to that period in film history where actors like George faced a major crisis.

There's a wonderful upbeat finale, where a few words are finally spoken, that had the packed house at the Avon cheering.

Richard Dulgarian was smiling as we left the 2 p.m. showing, fighting our way through the crowds lined up down the street for the 4:10 show.

After a successful six-week run of "My Week With Marilyn," it looks like he may be in for an even longer run with "The Artist."

It is rated PG-13, with nothing at all to prevent the young ones, who will learn a bit about early filmmaking.


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