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PG, 100 minutes
Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman
French director Michel Hazanavicius has fashioned an ingenious period piece, set in the late 1920s, filmed entirely in black and white, sans dialogue. The soaring score is ideally suited to the material, punctuating witty scenes and augmenting poignant ones. Drama, comedy, action and romance are intertwined in this gorgeously photographed and brilliantly directed film. Lead performances are thoroughly engaging despite — or perhaps because of — being wordless. Jean Dujardin is a joy to behold as silent film star George Valentin. His name could not be more fitting since The Artist is a love letter to classic Hollywood movies. When the story opens in 1927, Valentin is one of the era's top stars, blending the smolder of Rudolph Valentino and the swagger of Erroll Flynn. Off-screen George is a good-natured guy despite a chilly home life with his disdainful wife Doris (Penelope Ann Miller). Doris has little use for George and quietly demonstrates it by blackening the teeth on every newspaper photo of her husband that she sees. Talk about passive-aggressive. Fortunately for George, he has the devotion of his charming Jack Russell terrier (Uggie), who is unequivocally this man's best friend. An unexpected meeting with an effervescent young fan named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) makes an impression on George. Their paths cross soon after she is cast as an extra in his movie. They have visible chemistry in a sweetly funny dancing scene, and Peppy's luminous smile leaves George reeling. But the matinee idol's days headlining the marquee are numbered. Talkies take Hollywood by storm and George becomes old news. Meanwhile, Peppy's star is on the rise. Then in 1929, the studio he works for stops production on all silent films and the stock market crashes rendering George broke.