It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Monday Movie Review … but after seeing The Artist this weekend, I just had to share. In honor of Good Friday, my office was closed. When I woke up that morning, I was a bit lazy, trying to decide how best to use my day off. After all, there were books to be written and shopping to be done and a million other things clamoring for my time. I know you know the drill.
But I had a hankerin’ for a good movie, so I flipped through my Fandango app on my phone to see what was playing. Even 12 o’clock matinees are $7.50, so I wasn’t interested in wasting my money on something that might not even be worth a buck at the Redbox. After a little hunting, I found that my local theater had a 12:15 showing of The Artist.
Maybe you didn’t hear much about this black and white, silent movie before it walked away with the Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture at the Academy Awards ceremony back in February. Maybe you still haven’t heard much about it. Maybe the silent picture part of it isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe black and white isn’t your ideal. After all, didn’t Dorothy go all the way to Oz to get out of black and white? I was hovering somewhere in there, but knew this might be last chance to see it in the theaters, so I gave it a shot.
Here’s the thing, the movie is just how it’s described by the reporters–it’s an homage to the silent movies of the 1920s and the tale of Hollywood’s rocky transition to the “talkies”.
Except that’s not really what the movie is about at all.
French actor Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent film star at the top of his game and a household name in 1927. He’s Hollywood’s main squeeze and favorite face. And he’s all about seeing his face on the big screen and his name in marquee lights. Mostly he’s all about himself. Sure he puts on a show and is so handsome that it’s easy to forgive his arrogance as he steals the spotlight from his costars. George (and his ridiculously adorable dog) is so likeable, that I was rooting for him to succeed, even when he refuses to try a talking picture–telling the studio owner that he’s the draw. His name will bring in scores of audiences to a silent picture that he’ll write, produce, direct, and star in. So he dumps all of his money into making a movie that was always doomed to fail. And then the stock market crashes.
In contrast Peppy Miller (played brilliantly by Berenice Bejo–who lit up the screen every time she was on and deserved far more accolades than she received for this role) is an aspiring actress, primed to hit the big time on the cusp of the talking movie revolution. While George descends into his self-made demise, Peppy’s star is rising and rising and rising. And in her, we see not a direct contrast to George’s ego, but rather a version of who George could have been–faults and all. We see her generosity of spirit and genuine concern for a man who often doesn’t deserve it.
And we see how accepting that generosity changes him.
The truth is, on the surface this is just a fun movie. The music is amazing, the story interesting for any movie buff (I could draw endless comparisons and contrast to Singin’ in the Rain), the actors handsome and especially skilled, and the dog incredible. What the sound technicians did was incredible. And how the whole story of George’s life can be told through his mustache still makes me smile.
Maybe these are reasons enough for you to see it. Good. Do.
If they’re not, I’d challenge you to watch it for the reminder of pride that so easily entangles us. All weekend I have found myself thinking about The Artist as I face struggles in my writing. How easy it would be to refuse to face writing trials head on, instead asking don’t they know who I am? Don’t they realize how special/important/talented/amazing I am? But the truth is that there are those who have generously poured into my writing life, and accepting their gifts changes me and demands more of me. It reminds me that I’m not doing life–or this writing thing–on my own. I owe them better than arrogance. I owe them the humility it takes to make changes to chapters or whole story lines when that’s asked of me. It’s the least I can do … Actually, it’s the best I can do.
Have you seen The Artist? What did you think?