The film has no dialogue at all until the very end, and tells its tale as a silent movie would. Naturally, the film is in black-and-white, and the music evokes the era. The story is cliche but apropos: the coming of talkies did affect many silent movie stars, and one man's journey and the woman who loves him (and his dog and his butler, heh heh) is the tale to be told.
George Valentin helps Peppy Miller get her start and is left behind as she becomes a star in talkies and he refuses to embrace the new wave. He bankrolls a silent film to prove that silents (and himself) are still what the public wants to see. Unfortunately for him, it debuts on October 25, 1929, four days before the Crash. He is wiped out, the movie tanks at the box office, and his wife throws him out of their mansion. He ends up on Skid Row and has to auction off all his possessions. All he has left is his dog and butler, and he finally fires Clifton (he hasn't been able to pay him in a year) so that he can get another job (he does, with Peppy).
The climactic scene involves a fire and his old movies, and Peppy is still in love with him and wants to help. She's loaded since she's a big star now, but pride is a terrible thing in man.
Little touches abound like the breakfast scene between George and his wife with grapefruit makes you think if James Cagney and Mae Clarke's scene from 1931's Public Enemy. No grapefruit-in-the-face but a hint of it with the hostility between the couple. ;)
Anyway, I'll say no more. Go and see! :)
My friends and I were drawn in and had a great time. Marco Polo is a history nut like me, and BunnyGirl liked the unusual presentation. She especially loved the dog! ;)
The film is nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. I've only seen three Best Picture nominations this year: this film, Moneyball and Hugo, which was also about silent films. I highly recommend that movie, too! And Moneyball as well. It was interesting, more so than I thought would be the case about baseball stats, but it's more about how to build a team when you don't have the deep pockets of the Yankees and Red Sox.
The Artist has a good shot of bringing home the Best Picture gold statuette. It's the type of film that Hollywood loves to award Oscars to! ;)