I saw this on my recent trip to New York City. I dragged a friend (who I met originally from these message boards, how about that?) along with me who was reluctant to see it for all the reasons that have been stated here. I was just curious to see it though, as I'm sure is a reason many are buying tickets for this in general.
I have to agree with the OP here, I thought it was well made but completely trapped in a homage that it wanted to escape but couldn't. It was a tug of war between contemporary approach and experiment in recreation which never found a true balance.
The cinematography was excellent but was representative of the fundamental problem in the film for me - some shots were ellaborate "modern" styled camera movements that embraced all the technology and capabilities a 2011 film has at it's disposal to make such beautiful, fluid, interesting camera movements, framing, etc. However, sometimes the camera was forced into a lock down position and framed everything as if it were trying to recreate how they made a film in 1920 - fine, but once you've shown me how interesting things can be and look with all the modern stylization, I'm more interested to see a silent film made by contemporary artists than to see contemporary artists try and recreate a fake old film. At times, some of the sequences seemed to be borderline embracing the cliched fast movements of silent films... which is actually a frame rate problem of whatever transfer and not intentional (correct me if I'm wrong?). For example, more or less whenever there is "action"... like the car driving into the tree - the movements of the characters seem to be flirting with that "style", which isn't a style at all.
I also agree wholeheartedly with the OP about the missed opportunity
the dream sequence had me sitting up in my seat and thinking "this is what everyone must be talking about - what a great idea!" I loved where that was going. And before it even started, it was over!
The acting was very good though and I thought it was funny that Dujardin and Bejo were going to be catapulted to international stardom on these roles - and face the exact same problem that the film focused on... stars of silent cinema typecast into silent roles and unable to make the jump to sound films. That will make for a peculiar situation. Worthy of a film in itself!
So despite the "feel good" cheese of too much of the film, I did enjoy it and think it very nice that something like this will get some major Oscar traction and be a gateway to silent cinema for a lot of new viewers who otherwise wouldn't have even considered it. And if it wins Best Picture, all the better. It's cheesey, but hey it's beautiful, in black and white and not something you see everyday. I enjoyed it for what it was and tried my best to turn off my film buff brain for a bit to enjoy the experience (for the most part, unsuccessfully). 3 or 3.5 / 5 for me.