When I first heard about this film, I was excited. A film about the evolution of sound and the people who get left behind but told in a completely silent way seemed to be right up my ally. And the buzz that came out of Cannes and various other film festivals was so exciting that I thought it would be my favorite film of 2011 without even seeing it. However due to my financial constraints, the weird release dates, and a busy schedule, I didn’t get to see the film until after the millions of nominations and awards it has received and the backlash that ultimately comes from these events. As a movie news junkie, I couldn’t avoid all the talk about The Artist to the point that it sort of loss some interest for. But I decided to sneak into the theater and watch an afternoon showing at my multiplex (fuck those guys. eight dollars for a small popcorn and a drink. they deserve to lose ticket revenue). I can sum up my review in one word: Meh.
I had a good time with the film, don’t get me wrong. I was charmed by Jean Dujardin and Bernice Bejo as much as anyone else seeing the film. I thought the dog was cute if a little sholcky (which I am sure was totally on purpose). I didn’t have a problem with no words being said, because the actors knew how to get their emotions across without clowning around (except when they were supposed to be clowning around) and the chopping up of Herman’s iconic score for Vertigo did not really act as a deterrent. I just thought this film was slight and too full of fluff. It didn’t probe to deeply into anything really and from the moment you saw Dujardin and Bejo meeting, you knew what was going to happen. In fact Bejo’s character was charming, but I felt like she stressed the “I just want to help you” angle too much and Dujardin played the victim to the point of nauseum.
There just seems to be something missing from this film and I don’t know what exactly it is. Hazanavicius’ previous films seems to have been missing the same thing. He is an expert filmmaker that can really tell a story and evoke an atmosphere, but it never seems like he really cares about the characters. I guess I don’t see that down and dirty commitment to his work and it bothers me. Or maybe I am just reacting to all of the negative backlash of the film. I can’t unread all of the critiques and the Oscar talk that I have read. I can’t go back to that time I thought this film was really going to be the best film of 2011. I just can’t and it makes me sad. It makes me sad that I didn’t connect with this film the way I wanted to.