The advent of talking pictures sends a screen idol into both a career nosedive and an identity crisis in Michel Hazanavicius's flashback to Hollywood's transitional period of the late '20s. A buoyant comedy that contains moments of pathos, this silent black-and-white movie recalls Singin' in the Rain but possesses a reverence that's endearingly French. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo play two unrepentant hams, he the insouciant action hero George and she the ambitious unknown Peppy.
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The intertwined decline of George and rise of Peppy is played out with an almost archeological attention to period detail and boasts a roster of colorful supporting players, including George's loyal dog. But the cinematic history lesson is secondary to the dark humor of George's stubborn refusal to shackle his high-flying persona to a microphone. The talented Dujardin easily travels from goofy comedy to the existential terror George experiences when his screen shadow literally deserts him.