It’s 1927 and silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his career. He’s photographed by a young woman, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who subsequently gets a part as an extra in his next movie. George and Peppy are immediately attracted to each other, but George is married and the romance is just a dream.
Peppy gets more and more movie roles and becomes a star in her own right. Then in 1929, studio owner and movie producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) invites George to view a technological breakthrough in movies. This is the ‘talkies’, which introduces a new era in movie-making. Unfortunately for George, the talkies end his career. Al fires him, saying, ‘The public wants fresh meat’. At the same time, the talkies raise Peppy’s career to new heights.
Dejected by the loss of his movie career, George’s life takes a downward turn into depression and destitution. By 1932 he hits rock bottom. He almost kills himself when he sets fire to his home while drunk and depressed. He later tries to commit suicide. Luckily for George, he has a guardian angel in Peppy, who has been keeping an eye on him during his downward spiral.
The Artist contains occasional unrealistic action violence and accidental harm from the silent movie era. There are also a couple of scenes that show more realistic self-harm (but don’t show blood and gore). For example:
- Scenes from 1920s silent movies feature a man shooting a rifle at a plane. Men fight with swords, and one man is stabbed through the stomach. A man sinks in quicksand until his outstretched arms finally disappear. A woman cries out while she watches this happen.
- In a silent movie, a man is strapped to a chair and tortured. He has electrodes placed on either side of his head. The unconscious man is then dragged away and put in a prison cell.
- While in a depressed and drunken stupor, George destroys the living room of his home. He overturns furniture, and sweeps rolls of films onto the floor and sets them on fire as he laughs in a crazy way. The room fills with smoke and flames, and George collapses with his face and hands black from the smoke. A policeman carries him to safety. Later we see him unconscious in hospital with his hands bandaged.
- Peppy Miller drives a car through city streets in an erratic way, almost hitting other cars and pedestrians. A title card with the word ‘Bang’ is shown, and the next scene shows the damaged car after it has crashed into a tree. Peppy isn’t hurt.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight years, including the following:
- George has a panic attack and a waking nightmare. He hears loud noises. He covers his ears and screams silently.
- After the fire at his house, George walks through the blackened and burned remains of his living room and has an emotional breakdown. He takes a gun out of a box, places it in his mouth and puts his finger on the trigger.
- A woman shouts at a man. She angrily throws a folded newspaper at a small dog.
- In a scene showing George’s suicide attempt, he places the gun in his mouth. A distressed small dog tugs on the cuffs of George’s pants to stop him.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
The movie contains one subtle sexual reference. This is when Peppy refers to two young men who are accompanying her as ‘toys’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- As you might expect in a movie about the 1920s and 1930s, characters often smoke cigarettes and cigars. A couple of scenes show restaurants and picture theatres full of cigarette smoke.
- Throughout the movie and at various times of the day and night, George drinks scotch from a glass. As George becomes more depressed, he drinks more. In one scene, George has an empty glass and an empty scotch bottle. He takes the empty bottle to the kitchen and puts it in a crate full of more empty scotch bottles. He pawns a dinner suit to get money to buy alcohol.
- In one scene, George drinks to excess in a bar. He gets so drunk that he starts to hallucinate and sees a miniature version of himself. He has a conversation with this small version of himself before passing out and being carried home to bed.
- While in a drunken stupor, George destroys his living room and sets fire to a pile of film, which he has emptied onto the floor.
Nudity and sexual activity
The Artist contains occasional low-level sexual activity and mild sensuality. For example:
- While Peppy is behind a screen, her legs can be seen from her thighs down. George looks at her legs.
- Peppy wears revealing low-cut tops and a nightdress.
- In a couple of scenes, George and Peppy flirt with each other and stare into each other’s eyes. Peppy gives George a light kiss on the cheek.
None of concern
This movie has infrequent low-level coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Artist is a black and white silent movie, which tells an inspiring story of fame, fortune, friendship and loyalty. The movie is targeted at older adolescents and adults, particularly those who have a passion for movies, movie-making and silent movies. The movie needs your full attention because it relies on facial gestures and body language to tell its story. Younger adolescents and children might find this aspect of the movie too demanding. Also, the movie does contain some dark themes and a couple of tense and disturbing scenes.
The main messages from this movie are these:
- As we get older, we’re in danger of being overtaken by technological advances. These can challenge our careers and possibly our purpose in life.
- Excessive pride can be the biggest danger in stopping us from overcoming change and obstacles.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include friendship and loyalty. For example, Peppy always looks out for George’s best interests, as does Clifton, George’s chauffer/butler.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as how George is nearly ruined because he’s too proud to change.