It is 1927, and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the height of a flourishing career as a matinee idol. But that is also the year marking the introduction of talkies, an innovation which would soon signal the demise of the Silent Era.
Unfortunately, George is too pampered and insulated to appreciate the fact that sound is about to overhaul the movie industry, so he is caught by surprise when his services as a leading man are no longer in demand. Then, between the sudden loss of income and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, he ends up losing not only all his money but his shallow wife (Penelope Ann Miller) to boot.
After moving from a sprawling mansion to a modest apartment, George lays off the longtime chauffeur (James Cromwell) he can no longer afford. At this point, the dejected has-been feels like his only friend in the world is the Jack Russell Terrier (Uggie) that continues to love him unconditionally.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Hollywood, the fortunes of an emerging ingénue cut a sharp contrast to those of the fading film star. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) owes a debt of gratitude to George who, despite an ugly rumor circulating in the tabloids, had still cast her as his dance partner in one of his pictures when she was just another unknown, aspiring actress.
Although sparks had flown between the two on the set back then, nothing had become of the mutual admiration. However, now, with Peppy on top of the world, the question is whether she will forget about the down on his luck icon who had once given her her big break.
So unfolds The Artist, a silent, black & white reminder of a bygone era which won five Oscar's earlier this year, including Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin). This cinematic masterpiece very eloquently endeavors to entertain while simultaneously chronicling a critical moment in the evolution of the art form.
A silent love song that anyone who adores film can nonetheless hear, loud and clear!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for a crude gesture and a disturbing image.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Blooper reel; Q&A with the filmmakers and cast; Hollywood as a Character: The Locations of The Artist; The Artisans behind The Artist: and The Artist: The Making of an American Romance.