Friday, February 1, 2013

We have to talk, George.

In my illustrious career as a temporary worker, I would routinely get called for horribly random jobs. I worked in such enchanting places such as a Nationwide claims center, a windowless medical records room, and even a copier parts warehouse (which was formerly an adult DVD warehouse). Once, I was offered a one day gig as a mascot. A mascot. I was told I wouldn't even have to say anything, just kind of dance around and make obvious gestures. As a recent college graduate (read: broke jerk) who needed money, something inside of me said this is beneath you, don't do it. I told the woman that I wasn't interested, though I couldn't quite explain why.

Years later, the answer is obvious.

George Valentin isn't a worthless post-collegiate slacker. No, the protagonist of last year's The Artist, is actually a very successful movie star. Check that, silent movie star. One evening, in the middle of yet another shining moment for the dashing leading man, a young woman inadvertently stumbles into his limelight. George, being the relentlessly charming guy he is, welcomes her with a huge smile. She gives him a seemingly harmless kiss on the cheek, and then disappears back into obscurity. Well, for a couple hours anyway.

This woman, Peppy Miller, is absolutely stunning. Oh, and driven, too. After landing on the front page smooching Valentin, suddenly there's a national interest in her. With some of the sweetest dance moves not involving Hammer pants, Peppy lands a bit part as a dancer in the latest - surprise! - Valentin flick. Oh, no she didn't.

She did, and she does. All the way to the top. Peppy, with a touch of help from Valentin, instantly becomes a major Hollywood star. Valentin on the other hand, sees his fade just as quickly. Peppy embraces this new rage in Tinseltown, a little thing called sound. Valentin, the biggest silent star around thinks this too, shall pass. When prompted to consider this new found aural direction, Valentin hisses if that's the future, you can have it. Damn handsome pride.

To the surprise of no one, this movie is completely fantastic. It charms from the first frame, and continually keeps you smiling and yearning for the glory days of the silent era. Telling a story about silent films in an actual silent film may sound gimmicky to the more cynical of you out there, but I honestly dare you not to like at least something about this film. In fact, I double dare you. Watching Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin as Valentin light up the screen for 100 minutes is probably enough on its own, but throwing in the classic beauty of Berenice Bejo? It's almost unfair. Sure I'm late to the party, but I was floored with the charm and grace of these two. They were absolutely perfect.

Troll-like in appearance, lacking all charm and grace, and definitely not perfect, here are the Yays and Boos. Be nice, though. They're still getting over their crush on Peppy, poor kids. They've been jitterbugging all day. It's sad, really.

Hey, watch the hand, pal.
  • I think George Valentin is one of the most likeable characters ever put to film. He's nice to everyone, and seems to smile through everything. Even his downfall.
  • With apologies to my wife, I was so captivated by the beauty of Bejo. Seriously, I was this close to marble notebook and scribbling her name all over it. What's worse? I thought she looked exactly like someone I used to work with. I'm a married spud. I'm a married spud.
  • The good ol' days! Damned if I wasn't smitten with all these foxy dames and dashing gents. 
  • Was it just me, or was the coat scene oddly hot? Wowzers.
  • One of my favorite scenes, possibly of all time, was their first dance scene together. Not only was it very sweet and politely romantic, but Dujardin's posing at the beginning of each take was just great. You have to smile at this. Have to.
  • Not too subtle, but still very cool, I loved that their chance encounter took place on a massive staircase. Very cool.
  • The wife's note! The note itself is fine, but the postscript rules. By the way, go see the movie that killed you! It's great!
  • Though I think James Cromwell is slightly menacing, the character of Clifton literally is the epitome of loyalty. I don't want another job. Oh, Clifton. You crazy, old bastard!
  • That mirrored table shot was awesome. I wasn't even sure what was the reflection at first.
  • I'd be a heartless jerk, well more so, if I didn't mention the dog. 
  • John Goodman. Clearly, my love for this man has strayed past the friend zone. This guy is the friggin' best. Here, he has no better scene then when he finally gives in to Peppy's demands. Classic.
  • This is silly, especially for a perv like me, but one thing I honestly love about old-time movies? It brings me endless joy that the greatest expression of love and emotion is an incredibly passionate hug.
  • And finally, the end. Every movie should end with kick ass tap-dancing. Every. Single. One.
The initial frame of this shot was rather clever.
  • Sound! In the nightmare sequence it was very cool, but by the end, even I was rebelling against it. 
  • Speaking of noise, my wife actually asked me to turn it down. Yes, she actually requested that I lower the volume...on a silent movie.
  • Speaking of crazy broads, what's up with Co-star lady? She's completely terrible. I would've went with the dog first, too.
  • I was pretty bummed when George had to sell all his stuff. Especially when the jerk at the auction place cheerfully informed him Congratulations! It all sold. You have nothing left.
  • As a relatively traditional educator, I could sympathize with George's plight. See, we both live in a world where our way of getting things done is on the way out, a thing of the past. Technology is eliminating our craft. We have a strong reluctance to change.
You know, even though I turned down the mascot job, I ended up at the same place that day, anyway. They called me back with some office job, and I quickly accepted. And as I got out of my car, sure enough, there was some other guy, dancing around in the mascot suit. I tried to avoid him, but he shimmied up to me in his over-sized shoes and extended his massive hand. For a high-five, of all things. He seemed to be really enjoying himself. Annoyed, I headed inside and found my desk. That guy's probably some dropout moron, I thought. Not a college graduate, like me.

For the next eight hours, this college graduate sorted mail.  
In silence.

F--king pride.


  1. So glad you enjoyed the movie! I actually gave it 9,9/10 - it was so clever, refreshing, beautiful and moving and oh my God Jean Dujardin <333

    I loved that dance scene too, it was so romantic. And that whole nightmare sequence was pure genius.

    1. I agree with everything, even JD. Though the role is pretty much perfect anyway, JD is absolutely terrific.

      Even though it won so many awards, I thought that I was going to have to slog through it. Luckily, that was not the case at all. It was sooooooo good.

      Yes! That dance scene is something that you imagine would be shown in one of those Oscar tributes to the good old days. Loved watching him start take after take.

      Ha! That nightmare scene? It actually elicited a response from my dog, as all the barking interrupted his slumber.

  2. Ah, well, I was actually a college grad when I had the all-night service station job. The one where random nut jobs stopped by and exposed themselves to me. And I delivered pizzas right after I got my Master's. Ah, well ... in a shitty economy, who needs pride? :-D

    I haven't seen this movie yet, and I really want to. My daughter has been recommending it to me for ages. By the way, I love John Goodman too.

    1. I only talk about pride in the past sense anymore. I mean, you've read this blog. Pride's long gone.

      It's a rule. You have to love John Goodman. I mean, it's friggin' Dan Connor.

  3. It was definitely a joyful, little movie, but Best Picture winner?!?! Really!??! The middle-act is so meandering, so dry, and so dull that I was so terribly bored. However, when they turn on the charm and fun, it works perfectly. Just not perfectly enough to save the day for me. Good review M.

  4. Loved the review M. Brown. We need more Jean Dujardin in America, because he's absolutely charming. And I too fell in love with Bérénice Bejo. Like head over heels all over the place.

    I'm still trying to make the effort into visiting your site although I don't as much as I'd like to. You still have that dash delightful humor to add to your reviews. Some of the best parts are that your subtly reference random movies of without explicitly saying so to emphasize certain feelings or emotions. You make reading your reviews a joyful experience itself.

    It was great seeing what you were up to. We'll stay in touch.

    -Patrick (of the former site Banana Scoop)

    1. Patrick! Man, you were one of the first people to ever post on this trainwreck of a blog, and I have always appreciated it. Thanks a lot for the encouragement.

      I found so many cool things over at BS, but like you, I don't visit as often as I'd like (damn Blogger laziness, honestly).

      Dude, Bejo? A gift from God. I was blown away by her. Hell, him too.