A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Artist -- a black-and-white homage to Hollywood's silent movies of the 1920s -- is nearly silent itself, relying on characters' gestures and expressions, the musical score, and occasional title cards to tell its story of fame, fortune, and friendship. As such, it might not appeal to many kids, but those who really love movies may be drawn in by its references, setting, and old-fashioned celebration of cinema. There are a few tense/violent scenes, including one in which a distraught character puts a gun in his own mouth and another in which a fire gets out of control. You can also expect lots of era-accurate smoking and a fair bit of drinking, including some overindulgence. But there's virtually no language or sexual content, and in the end characters learn important lessons about the value of friendship and humility.
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What's the story?
In 1927 Hollywood, silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the George Clooney of his era -- charming, handsome, and a huge box office success. Despite the fact that he's married, he's also a bit of a flirt, and when ingenue Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) catches his eye, they share a few tender (though chaste) moments. As Peppy's career gradually takes off, George finds his own wings severely clipped by the advent of talkies; it's out with the old and in with the new, and George is definitively lumped in with the "old." Though his fortunes are far from what they used to be, George tries to stay positive -- but will his pride allow him to accept help when he needs it most?
Is it any good?
THE ARTIST is a movie for people who love movies. It lovingly pays tribute to a glamorous Hollywood that no longer exists, celebrating starry-eyed girls dreaming of red carpet glory, mustachioed matinee idols, and audiences who wholeheartedly buy into the celluloid illusions that flicker in the dark. It touches on some dark themes -- the relentless nature of "progress," the risk of being marginalized by the latest technological achievement, the dangers of excessive pride -- but it's still ultimately an uplifting story about friendship, loyalty, and the power of the movies. And it definitely isn't without humor; director Michel Hazanavicius strategically (and playfully) uses the movie's few non-silent moments to elicit knowing laughs.
While the movie's two stars -- both of whom are delightful -- are French, the supporting cast is filled with faces that will be more familiar for American audiences, from John Goodman as a blustering studio executive to James Cromwell as a loyal chauffeur/valet. The score is excellent, the cinematography lovely (there's a reason directors like to film people smoking in black and white). The Artist may not appeal to kids as much as the similarly themed Singin' in the Rain, which is more upbeat and accessible overall, but for anyone who's passionate about cinema, it's a must-see.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the filmmakers would want to make a silent movie today, when technology is so different. What's the appeal? Would the movie have been as effective if it was about silent movies but not silent itself?
Who do you think The Artist is intended to appeal to? How can you tell?
How does the fact that the movie is silent impact the way the actors behave on screen? What do you think would have been different if the movie had more dialogue?
- In theaters: November 23, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: June 26, 2012
- Cast: Berenice Bejo, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman
- Director: Michel Hazanavicius
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a disturbing image and a crude gesture
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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