Overview: The fall of a charming silent movie star and the rise a young beautiful dancer intersect at a crossroads in movie history. Warner Bros. (France)/Weinstein; 2011 Rated PG-13; 100 Minutes.
The Good: Astonishingly, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo exemplify the era of the film’s focus. As George Valentine and Peppy Miller (even their names throwback to an era of stylized charm), the two screen talents excel under the unique demands of a film format that most would have thought to be eight decades out of practice. Dujardin’s facial expressions, from his delightful smile to his contagious melancholy, are more than enough to involve viewers who otherwise might suffer the lack of dialogue. Bejo’s portrayal of the young starlet is disarming and magnetic. There must be an element of truth in her performance because one just can’t act that starry-eyed. That is the appeal of the silent film era, when sentimentality such as this wasn’t quick to be condemned. The contemporary film would scoff at the naivety in presenting Peppy without dark ulterior motives or any notion of not having George’s character be poisoned by despair; but, the hope permitted here is that somewhere in the real world there exists a purity of heart like Peppy Miller’s or a clean strength of goodness like that displayed by George Valentine in his decline. I am grateful at this movie’s permission to indulge that again, for just a moment.
Uggie: I have very little to add here. How can you sincerely dissect the performance of a Jack Russell? He’s just so damn adorable, he deserves his own segmented comment.
A Minor Issue: This film has been referred to countless times as “a love letter to the silent film era.” If it is a love letter, it is a juvenile and unpoetic one. Less like adoring prose and more like a basic drawn portrait of the object of affection tagged with the caption “Hey, this is what you look like.” While the movie avoids being esoteric (a feat worthy of note) and earns, in spots, its laughter and applause, it ultimately does little more than emulate, riding on the appeal of novelty and nostalgia, and were it to have existed within the time period it adores it might not have stood out so clearly.
Overall: My hope is that the common viewer uses the joy of this experience as an open door to investigate its roots, where he/she will find countless silent movies of equal or greater effect and measurably more authenticity.
Grade: B –