MOVIE REVIEW: Actions, not words, propel ‘The Artist’

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

The mysterious people who decide which movie goes where have sent a gift to Tupelo.
“The Artist” is showing at the Malco, and it’s a rare opportunity for movie fans.
For the most part, it’s a black-and-white silent film modeled after the productions made before the “Land” fell off the end of the famous “Hollywood” sign.
Jean Dujardin is George Valentin, a wildly successful silent film star. He wows fans and critics with his ability to transmit powerful emotions through a movie screen with nothing but body language and facial expressions. It doesn’t hurt that his co-star (Uggie the dog) is equally talented and charismatic.
But time and technology march on, and silent films give way to the “talkies,” leaving George and his dog to fend for themselves.
While George slips into depression, Peppy (Bérénice Bejo), a starlet he helped discover, sees her career blast into the stratosphere.
It’s clear by her body language and facial expressions that she has deep feelings for George, if only his pride would quit getting in the way.
If that sounds like a story you’ve heard before, I’m inclined to agree. But writer and director Michel Hazanavicius presents the familiar narrative in a way few of us have seen on the big screen.
In addition to amazing work by Dujardin and Bejo, John Goodman hits the right balance between comedic foil and dictatorial studio boss as Al Zimmer. James Cromwell sinks into his role as George’s chauffeur. The film also effortlessly shows us the growing estrangement between George and his wife (Penelope Ann Miller).
The story drags at times, but, overall, it’s an engrossing film, and it’s great to see this old art form on the big screen.
It won’t start a silent film resurgence, but “The Artist” provides more evidence that great actors tell us what they’re thinking without saying a word.
I give “The Artist” an A.
It’s showing at the Malco at Tupelo Commons.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

Kelli Karlson Wizard 106.7 She gives “The Artist” a B minus. “I’m not saying ‘Don’t see it.’ I’m saying, ‘I’m not going back.'”

Roadkill Bill Wizard 106.7 He gives “The Artist” an A. “I was surprised by the amount of emotion the movie made me feel. I loved it.”