The movie that’s the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards next Sunday night is The Artist. It’s also one of the most charming romantic comedies of the year. But the thing that’s earning it the most accolades—and the thing that’s still keeping some audiences away—is that it is a black-and-white silent film.
Don’t let it scare you away. The Artist may star actors unknown to American audiences like Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo—both Oscar-nominated for their performances—but the humor and heart of the movie is absolutely universal.
It’s about a silent film star who refuses to make the transition to sound films and the young starlet ascends to fame thanks in part to him. It’s strength is in its inspired performances and its seamless updating of the kind of visual storytelling used 100 years ago, and its weakness lies in a story that’s as predictable as every other modern romcom.
Directed by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist may look like an art film, but it’s anything but. It’s a good, old-fashioned, formulaic, Hollywood romantic comedy rise-and-fall story told with a modern sensibility and easily accessible by mainstream audiences.
But isn’t it a sad state of affairs when a romantic comedy has to be silent and black-and-white to win serious accolades? It would be nice if the Oscars could reward smart comedies without the obvious “artistic” trappings once in a while.
After it wins Best Picture next week, this little-silent-film-that-could will be on the tips of filmgoer’s tongues all over America.