Is the Oscar Winning film of 2011 nothing more than a gimmick? Oh its a gimmick, to be sure, but that’s not all it is. It also happens to be a charming and captivating movie in its own right.
Of course harkening back to the silent film era, it makes sense to set your film during that era too, as we see silent film start George Valentin dealing with the change in his movie industry to talkies. At first he scoffs at the change, and then finds he has trouble coping. Its not an incredibly original story, but it works in the context that its in. The love story between Valentin and rising star Peppy Miller is really what holds things together.
Director Michael Hazana…vicius (sorry, I had to go for a coffee break in the middle of typing his name) is able to take this silent film premise and do some neat things with it. Some examples of this ingenuity are the coat arm scene, the feet-only dancing session, and the coat in the window trick. One of the most interesting scenes in the movie is when Valentin discovers that the objects around him make noises, as we hear the sound effects. Its almost like a Pleasantville effect. However, that scene ends up existing in a vacuum and the idea behind it is never really followed through on, until the very end.
The reason a movie like this works is the charisma and likability of the two lead actors; Jean Dujardin (of OSS semi-fame) and Berenice Biju. Both actors are extremely expressive and wonderfully charming that you can’t help but want everything to work out for them.
The movie is only 1 hour 40 minutes, but even with that short running time, the gimmick does start to feel pretty thin and tired by the second half. Perhaps this is aided by the fact that the story is very linear with no real surprises. However, even with a thin plot, there are enough directorial details which subtly add to the depth, and the performances are enjoyable in a way that is quite different from most this day and age.