The Artist. I was not excited to see a silent film, and it took a little while for me to warm up to it, but this is a natural, funny and beautifully shot picture, a riches-to-rags-to riches love story with enormous heart.
The movie is almost entirely dependent on its two leads, Jean Jujardin and Bérénice Bejo, both of whom are nominated for Academy Awards, and deservedly so. Dujardin is a silent film king who gives Bejo her big break, falling in love with her in the process. She ascends in the talkie era and he fades away. Particularly affecting is the scene of Dujardin in his last gasp movie, lost in quicksand:
Dejardin’s descent dragged a little bit, but that is the only criticism I have.
Dejardin and Bejo are aided by a plucky performance by a dog and the contributions of John Goodman as the studio mogul and James Cromwell as the loyal chauffeur. But they carry the film and their performances, which could easily have been big and over-the-top, are subtle and moving. The scene where they fall in love – a series of takes where Dujardin dances with then-extra Bejo, each take becoming more entranced – is captivating.
This is the favorite to win Best Picture tonight and it is the second best picture of the year.
Margin Call, nominated for best original screenplay, is still at the top of my heap.