The Immigrant (2013)
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Somehow Marion Cotillard keeps getting better and better and digging deeper into her characters. She is far and away the best actress out there and continues to work with the finest filmmakers. Her confession scene in this movie was stunning, beautiful- the best shot of the year. When the credits rolled i wasn't sure what i was feeling but i knew it was worthy of deep contemplation. Pure class, pure cinema.
The title character refers to Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard), a Polish immigrant freshly off the boat at Ellis Island alongside her sister , Magda (Angela Sarafyan). The sisters are hastily separated when Magda is unable to conceal her illness (later discovered to be tuberculosis), and is promptly quarantined. Faced with deportation, Ewa is recruited by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a shady theater promoter, who is able to furnish her with a bed and employment.
Ewa finds her situation anything but ideal, and it is not long before her body becomes her greatest commodity. Feeling exploited by Bruno, she manages to locate her aunt and uncle, earlier immigrants living in the city for some time now. This effort proves futile, and she is once again resigned to operate under Bruno.
Further complications ensue when Emil (Jeremy Renner), a magician and Bruno's cousin, enters the picture and is instantly enraptured by Ewa. Partly seeing it as an infringement of his turf and partly out of envy, Bruno reacts hostilely towards Emil's advances towards Ewa. Ewa, whose justification for her prostitution is a hopeful reunion with her sister, is torn between the two men. Not necessarily out of love, for something so trivial surely has no use in the world of struggles Ewa finds herself in, but she is divided as to whom can properly benefit her, as she has reason to doubt both men's claims.
Showcasing a handsome reproduction of early 1920's New York, Gray's film is a very sympathetic portrait of the burden of immigrant life. As depicted in the film, the processing system dehumanized the migrants, frighteningly close to the same degree as the slave processing in "Goodbye Uncle Tom." If one was lucky enough to make it through customs and into the country, "The Immigrant" pulls no punches in representing the strife of the urban environment at a time where work came cheap and arduous, as was human life.
As one would come to expect by now, Marion Cotillard, who has been nothing less than terrific in various foreign and domestic films in the last couple years, is well cast as Ewa. Able to channel the character's sympathy without falling victim to excessive sentiment, Cotillard's Ewa is a woman who has convinced herself to make the necessary sacrifices, yet cannot help but to bear the guilt. Though Cotillard's Ewa may doubt her methods, her zeal is never up for question. She is absolutely determined to see her sister again from whatever cash she can scrap together, and the end will surely justify the means.
Also notable is Phoenix, who continues his recent career renaissance following 2012's "The Master" and 2013's "Her." Bruno, as played by Phoenix, is undoubtedly taking advantage of Ewa and her situation, yet there is a sense of gentleness and care that Phoenix is able to bring to the character. Under Bruno's wing, Ewa may be compromised, but she is cared for and secure. Bruno never physically abuses her or coerces her into something she isn't prepared for, as her path into prostitution was clearly forged given the situation, whether she came across Bruno or not. Thus Bruno's recruitment was both a blessing and a curse for Ewa. Great credit should go to screenwriters Gray and Ric Menello and actor Phoenix for carving a well-structured and nuanced character out of what could have easily fallen into the ranks of cliché.
As her character states early on, Ewa's only ambition in coming to America is "to be happy," yet she finds her conditions to be anything but. Thus "The Immigrant" is a testament to the trials and tribulations that countless individuals and families have endeavored (and those who continue to do so) at the aspiration of forging a better lives for themselves.
Though it's lensed with a soft focus emphasis that lends the film a dreamlike patina, "The Immigrant" doesn't shy away from scratching below the scabbed surface of the American dream, even in the first scene. The Cybalska sisters, Ewa and Magda, are among the many crowded in line at Ellis Island in 1921, waiting to be welcomed into America (through the rigorous immigration process that shows that getting into the States was just as difficult then as it is now). The elder Ewa (Marion Cotillard, whose haunting beauty and old-school look made her the perfect casting) is a former Polish nurse who tries to advise her sickly younger sister to look well, but unfortunately, Magda is consumptive and kept in isolation from the other immigrants. Ewa herself is corralled when she is suspected of being "a woman of low morals," but before she can be deported, she is "rescued" by a man named Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix, also perfectly era-appropriate), who trawls the immigration station in hopes of picking up potential new additions to his troupe.
For you see, Weiss runs a burlesque show made almost entirely of young foreign ladies who escaped the ravages of the Great War to seek their fortunes here. But he takes a special kindle to Ewa, who nevertheless finds herself disliking her new livelihood and employer. Despite his rather sad-sack pursuit of Ewa's affections, Bruno still pimps her out to rich patrons. It may seem very von Trier-esque, but indeed this was not uncommon in the Big Apple back then. Yet Ewa refuses to be downtrodden, even though she has convinced herself that she is a condemned woman (referenced in a crucial scene in a Catholic confessional). She even flees from Bruno's employ at one point, only to end up back where she started in Ellis Island . . . and who is waiting to bail her out by Weiss again?
There is, however, a glimmer of hope for Ewa, in the form of a dashing Houdini-esque magician named Orlando. Played with relaxed charm and verve by Jeremy Renner, Orlando makes a perfect foil for Phoenix's Bruno. Orlando would traditionally be the hero of this story who gets the girl in the end, but James Gray is not interested in telling a traditional tale, even if he has taken many tropes from older works. Orlando's presence presents its own problems for Ewa, and the brewing conflict among the three central characters affects her most of all.
And Gray certainly lucked out in casting Cotillard; the actress knows how to convey a soliloquy's worth of emotion with a single glance, and Cotillard's mournful, ethereal presence is used in full force here. Her dialogue is minimal, mainly reactionary save for her confessional, and yet she says more in this performance to express her situation than Cate Blanchett did in "Blue Jasmine" could with all of her broad rhapsodizing (no disrespect meant to Cate). Cotillard has played in this era before, and the fact that she has the throwback beauty that would've made her a star even in the silent days makes her presence in this film all the more soulful. (Also, full props on the French actress mastering the Polish accent, even whilst speaking the language!)
But Cotillard doesn't have to do the heavy lifting alone. Joaquin Phoenix, who's worked with Gray three times before this, continues to show why he may be the premier actor of his generation. Bruno Weiss seems to be a self-loathing man who just can't bring himself to play the hero in the traditional sense, resorting only to the shady and seedy in order to get ahead in life. Phoenix does a fine job of showing that there is a great depth to Bruno, and we sympathize with the schmuck; he works well on the stage, but when the curtains are drawn, he's at sea. Jeremy Renner, who came very close to playing the role that Phoenix made instantly iconic in "The Master", has a fantastic presence and works very well against both Joaquin and Marion. One does hope that Gray works with him in the future, hopefully in a leading part to take full advantage of his talent.
"The Immigrant" may rest mostly on its trinity of actors' shoulders, but it is a rich experience thanks to Gray's operatic direction, which feels like an homage to the days of both Chaplin and Coppola. I do find it to be an almost incomplete film, as I feel its ending felt more like a respite than a true completion. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I feel Gray could do so much more in this era, and tell more of this woman's story. But as it stands, I find "The Immigrant" to be a fine film with a great deal to say, and it acts as a beautiful showcase for Cotillard.
I'm one of the harsher critics on IMDb, but I enjoyed The Immigrant. This is a dark film about Prohibition-era New York, and the trials of Eastern European immigrants who have come here in the hopes of a better life.
Like most good films, good and evil are blurred. We aren't asked to judge the characters, but rather to observe them as they are.
The plot is solid and the performances are impressive, particularly Marion Cotillard and Juaquin Phoenix.
Fleeing the brutalities of Trotsky's Red Army, Polish Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and her sickly sister arrive in New York cira 1920. When her sister is quarantined and both are threatened with deportation, Ewa is taken notice and saved by the faux-sensitive brothell pimp Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) and blackmailed into prostitution. Just when Ewa may succumb to the sort of drab, bleak life that she was trying to allude, Bruno's cousin Orlando the Magician (Jeremy Renner) shows up and both men via their own quirky methods try to light a fire in the heart of the pretty foreigner.
In her best part since "Rust and Bone", Cotillard is Oscar worthy in a showy albeit poetic performance (made all the more impressive that she speaks Polish throughout most of it). Phoenix is superb as usual, as the repressed and impotent man who wants to think he's in charge. But Renner steals the show. Right when you think the movie is going to slide under the weight of the misery of its subject, his Orlando appears like a glowing gaslight of fun amongst the dim rooms and crowded corridors. Like his work in "American Hustle", its criminal that his spritely performance here will go unrewarded and under the radar.
Although the universal tale of Gray's film isn't exactly something we haven't seen before (from Kazan's bold "America, America" to Ron Howard's putrid "Far and Away") "The Immigrant" presents a rare and thoughtful experience, one in which we can learn something about the lives of long ago as well as our own.
Waiting in line, they excitedly discuss starting a new life. They want to get married to nice men and have lots of children. To get started, they are expecting to meet up with their aunt and uncle who live in New York City and who will provide a base for them to get established. But this happy plan almost immediately goes awry. Magda has a hacking cough. A Public Health doctor pulls her out of the line and orders her to be quarantined in Ellis Island's infirmary for six months where she cannot have visitors.
Because Ewa (pronounced Eva) was a nurse to an English family, she knows English. When she reaches the Ellis Island Customs Officer he informs her the address she has for her aunt and uncle is fake and that there is in fact no such address. The aunt and uncle never show. He accuses Ewa of lewd behavior and tells her women of low morals are not allowed to enter the United States. She is to be deported and must stand in a line with other deportees. She is extremely upset. First her beloved sister is taken away from her. Then she is going to be deported because she has no one to stand up for her. She is in despair. And she is also extremely vulnerable. These facts set the tone and the direction of the entire movie.
Enter Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix). He approaches Ewa in the line of detainees and offers to give her room and board and a job. Because her aunt and uncle didn't show up and she has no way to contact them―and also because she's completely broke―she feels she has no choice. But she discovers very quickly the boarding house is a whore house and the job is to display her body in front of male patrons in a small burlesque theater in Lower Manhattan. Later she is expected to sleep with them. Bruno is an expert manipulator of people who can easily ferret out their psychological weaknesses and use them to his own advantage. This is the way he keeps his girls (his "doves") in line.
With seemingly no other choice Ewa is pulled into the life that Bruno has defined for her. As the ultimate bait Bruno tells Ewa that with the right amount of money he can get Magda off Ellis Island. Although she is thoroughly disgusted by making a living this way (she's a devout Roman Catholic), because of her circumstances she is forced to become a prostitute. Bruno uses guile and psychological manipulation to keep things in line. But he does not beat the women. And also he does not sexually abuse them, but this was left a little murky.
Bruno is not a simple, one-dimensional villain. Bits and pieces of his life are revealed. He caustically relates to Ewa a short description of himself as a young boy dancing in the streets of Manhattan for money with a tin cup strapped to his leg so that people can conveniently toss coins into it. He remarks, "What we won't do to survive." He too started off in life dirt-poor. The world is hard. And the world is cruel. Unless you have some kind of safety net, either through family or through society, you can easily slide down the slippery slope and lose your humanity. This is true whether it's 20th century bc Babylon or 20th century ad New York City. It's part and parcel of the human condition.
Bruno develops a soft spot for Ewa. While Ewa is saying her confession to a priest, Bruno has entered the church and is listening in. He knows what he's done to her but hearing it from her lips to a stranger makes it even worse. The aunt is found and gives Ewa money to pay for Magda's freedom, which is arranged through Bruno's contacts on Ellis Island. He gives Ewa one-way tickets for her and Magda to go to California to start a new life. He confesses he's the one who purposefully set her up so she'd fall into his clutches. He tells her because of what he's done to her he is nothing. She replies softly, "No, you are not nothing." In her way Ewa loves Bruno and forgives him for what he's done to her.
One reason I give this movie an 8 rather than a 10 is what I consider one major flaw, which is the character of Orlando (Jeremy Renner), a magician whose real name is Emil and who is Bruno's cousin. Renner does a good job acting the part, but Orlando/Emil's role is chiefly as Bruno's nemesis rather than an actual flesh-and-blood person in his own right. He and Bruno have had previous run-ins and it's clear from other comments that Orlando/Emil is a very argumentative character. He's also embarrassed Bruno before and caused him to lose the first girl he truly loved. In summary Orlando/Emil seems more driven to free Ewa from Bruno's grip because he wants to thwart Bruno than from any deep feelings he has for her. They fight and Bruno kills him with a knife.
The settings and costumes are outstanding and convincingly capture 1921 Lower Manhattan. Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard and the other cast actors are very good.
Although Ewa and Magda can start a new life in California, the ending leaves murky Bruno's ultimate fate. This is another reason I give the movie an 8 rather than a 10. But I highly recommend this movie. It's far better than the habitual slop Hollywood spews out.
The acting is good, but the script is quite poor and the direction merely goes through the motions of formal correctness without adding depth, or a true reflection, or a new insight on the matter.
The characters lack in complexity and reality; the revealing of social injustice is more a "homework making" of a formal outrage than a truly insightful exploration of human miseries.
It is an average film with minor hits and major misses which, in my opinion, will not make its way through history, even for easy-to-please audiences as the lovers of Hollywood movies.
OK, this movie probably had a lot of production problems, like one of the reviewers said that he caught the 95 min. version and i actually watched the 2 hr. version and that was to short of a running time. this has the feel of an epic movie and the actors and actresses were superb in this movie. i think someone needs to hang or shoot the scriptwriter cause everything else about the movie was awesome.
the basic story is set in early 1920's new york city,and its about 2 sisters from Poland( how good is Marion's polish? ) immigrating to America and arriving on Ellis island. her younger sister is sick and quarantine and waiting to recover and be deported. she is about to be deported also because her sponsors( aunt and uncle )never arrived to pick them up. in swoops Joaquin phoenix to rescue the day and get her out of Ellis island and to downtown Manhattan. oh...BTW, did i mention that he is a pimp and hustler and finds a lot of the girls fresh of the boat who are in dire situations by bribing the guards.
...that is as far as i want to go with the story, it really is a must see movie but make sure you get the longest version possible not the 95 min. one. this movie dwells on the darker side of immigrant life and that America is not the utopia everybody makes it out to be. the streets ain't paved with gold and life was often very hard.
i want to give a shout-out for jeremy renner, he looks very debonaire and suave with the short-cut and the pencil moustache. he played the lovable loser cousin of phoenix and was a delight.
why no Oscar consideration for this movie this year??????. this movie had 3 a-list actors who gave very good performances, set production was gorgeous( everything looked dreary and old like its suppose to ). i don't know if there was cgi involved for the Ellis island scenes, but it was very well done and even new york city in the 1920's was well done.
the last scene between Marion and Joaquin is worth the price of admission alone and i just wish this bittersweet movie was at least a 1/2 hr. longer.
maybe it'll make next years Oscars as it has not officially been released here in the states yet and they can fix it up before then, it just needs a little touching-up here and there thats all.
wanna watch a really good movie? well this is one of the best of the year in my opinion. enjoy!
I have now had a lifetime's surfeit of Marion Cotillard looking angelic and tearful or fearful -- why couldn't they give her something more to do? Also, though Phoenix turned in a predictable tour-de-force performance, I believe he is capable of more/better, but alas I think it would have to be with a different director.
I guess it's a good thing that there was so much Polish spoken, but it really didn't add anything to the movie -- just to the director's ego, I suppose. They could have used those efforts better in making sure the English was appropriate for the time and place.
I suggest you not spend your money on this one. Watch it if they put it on TV -- it's colorful, and maybe they will cut its run time a little and that will improve it, I'm sure. I'm giving it a 2 instead of a 1 because it is still professionally executed -- it's the material that's the problem.
But we see everything in the same passive yellow light. The filmmaking itself is unimaginative, but more, the filmmaker isn't trying to sculpt possibility, only arranges the story that will take us into his show.
How much more bold and difficult it would be to have the woman herself manipulate, actively try to carve her own fate? Was the incident on the ship during the voyage really a lie? And would we judge her if it wasn't? And if we did, would we be any different from the bigot uncle?
But see, for the filmmaker this won't be an important lesson unless she's just stood there, pure, tossed about, as two rival men watch her and scheme for her, and we watch them, and there's only a postcard importance between the levels of watching.
This is a beautiful looking film. James Gray is able to achieve that much. The actors are first rate and Marion Cotillard is a true standout here. I love that her character isn't a simple innocent. She's smart enough not to trust Bruno right from the start. I don't like Bruno's character as much. He's a damaged person but the movie seems intent to create sympathy for him. Joaquin has a lovely vulnerability but he needs to be a tougher villain. Overall, this movie is simply too slow although it is quite beautiful.
"The Immigrant" is film about an immigrant who leaves Poland to escape the Great War. Along the way, the immigrant faces some of the tragedies we have seen in films about immigrants before: loss in their home country and poverty, usury, abuse, and corruption in their new home. The film fails to cover new territory, nor does it present the challenges of immigration in a way that is worth watching. It would have been more entertaining to watch a documentary about immigration of the era.
The immigrant, Ewa Cybulska played by Marion Cotillard, goes through a traumatic journey to get to Ellis Island, or so she tell us. However, we don't see it on film. The benefit of film is you can visually enact the traumas and emotions with flash backs or shadowy memories. Other than lovely Ewa's face and Cotillard's lack of depth as an actress, all we can go on are her words, "I have suffered." Perhaps a more adept actress could have pulled off the portrayal of trauma or perhaps if they had spent a few thousand dollars on a flashback, we may have been able to feel it ourselves. The film fails to get us to fully empathize with Ewa despite their efforts.
Other than the pretty and shallow acting of Cotillard, the film features Joaquin Phoenix as Bruno Weiss. Mr. Phoenix seems more concerned about winning his first Oscar by playing a morally questionable character than actually embodying the role of a man who preys on immigrants. Jeremy Renner plays a magician and suitor to Ewa, Emil. He is more charming and adept, but has little to work with in terms of plot and dialogue.
And that brings us the major problem with this and many other films. Both men are in love with Ewa, but we don't know why. Other than being pretty and speaking English, there is nothing to recommend her. She is not talented, smart, endearing, personable, nothing. A film that hinges on romantic attraction better make it clear why people are so taken with the object of their desire. I know that for many film-goers a character's attractiveness is enough. But attractiveness is not enough for a partner in real life, so why should it be so in film? Somebody so obviously under the affects of PTSD, Ewa, would be a real turn off to most people.
Rating: Rent it. The film is not a disaster, and it is certainly better than much of the superhero films, teen dramas or drunken adult films available in theaters currently, but it is not a great movie. "The Immigrant" is a mediocre film that at least attempts to make a statement about good, evil, holiness, sainthood, and sinning.
Peace, Tex Shelters
I know that Eva was charmed by Orlando/Emile (Jeremy Renner) but if she'd gone with him I think she would've ultimately regretted it. While well meaning, he came across as something of a flighty dilettante who would've dropped her the moment something shinier and newer came along. His character was all élan and dash with very little substance, purposely so.
The final scene between Eva and Bruno was perfect and I hope that come Oscar season this movie gets some recognition.
The story may be too predictable for some, but nonetheless it is a believable tale of how corruption leads to a confluence of events more harrowing and accidental. It definitely engages the viewer, but the two leads are so immensely strong that they carry the movie. Joquin Phoenix gives an utterly fantastic conflicted man who has managed to survive and prosper until he, sinks to a level even he has trouble living with. His portrayal of Bruno Weiss makes this movie which is a lot because it is against Cottilard's Ewa character who brings an almost unbearable amount of quiet suffering which permeates everything. There's a doomed love story playing out as well to which Jeremy Renner's performance accentuates. Renner's role adds tremendously as a catalyst to greater levels of both hope and despair.
The Immigrant is an extremely well crafted movie with great period cinematography. It looks dark and old blending despair and beauty expertly. Easily recommended for the performances of Marion Cotillard and Joquin Phoenix which are extremely strong.
Phoenix is always great in whatever he does, and he's the only actor whose character I felt and believed to be real in this film. Marion Cotillard is really sweet but, despite the role being written for her, the dramatic coloratura of the script, speaking in Polish, and shedding the perfect tear, her acting feels flat, as if she had taken a muscular relaxant during the film; unfortunately, I didn't think her acting was coming from the heart and it didn't touch mine. I found Jeremy Renner miscast in his role, he has no chemistry with Cotillard on camera and he was never meant to be a rival of the always powerful Phoenix.
The script has no tempo, unfortunately, so it dragged me alone on a two-hour flat ride. You know, the movie is really sad and emotional, but it rarely moved me, intrigued me, or kept me waiting for what was coming next. The movie felt, depending of the times, clichéd, phony, overly melodramatic, a bit frigid, but mostly unfocused and confused, and that's always the director's fault.
Overall, this is a nice film to watch, but it deflates before it gets fully inflated. There are many things I liked about this film, truly, but nothing I really loved, unfortunately.
Gray has done a wonderful job in keeping the tone of the movie within the right amount of drama, without going overboard and making it one of those insufferable heavy bricks which seat on your stomach like a bad lunch.
I had never seen Marion in action before, and she was very, very good! I loved her strength, the will to do whatever it took to reach her goal, even with the awful price she was asked to pay, you feel sorry for her but she's not totally a victim, she choose to pursuit that path. And she has also the strength to forgive herself. She's one step above everybody else given the period she lived in.
The real victim here I think is Bruno. He's just a product of his times, not better or worse than anybody else. He has deep feelings, mislead as they may be, both for Ewe and the other girls in general.
I couldn't help but feeling sorry for him at the end because he put himself on the line of fire and willingly lost when he decided to let her go and have a new life
Renner. His part wasn't one of the best I have seen, but at the same time it was perfect for the story. And he was perfect for it. His character comes across to me as a kind of flirtatious, not really deep as feelings go,I think he was serious in his being taken with Ewe but in the long run, if she had gone with him when he asked, he would have left her sooner or later. Emile struck me as someone lost, who was going through life with very little involvement both in his professional life and personal But, and this is the stroke of genius from Gray, Emile being so light make Bruno's feelings stand out, he gives them a depth which they would not have otherwise.
All in all, a movie worth see, and probably the kind of movie which reveals something more about itself when watching it again.
In this case, Ewa has arrived with her sister all the way from Poland, but they find serious trouble being let through due to her sister's illness and Ewa's "discourteous behavior" on the ship. Thankfully, a mysterious, fine-suited individual named Bruno (portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix) negotiates with the police officers, and with that, he sets off with Ewa to the mainland even though she's highly concerned for her powerless, detained sister who's forced into quarantine. And now, Ewa has officially entered the immensely intimidating, dog-eat-dog, merciless world in which she's introduced to prostitution and other equally depraved deeds for the sake of securing livelihood.
Ultimately what the film presents is an astonishingly beautiful and classical story that touches on all the timeless themes of forgiveness, moral turpitude, and environmental adaptation. Not to mention, it's exceptionally unpredictable, persistently keeping the audience either tense or stunned. As a further supplement, its unforgettably majestic musical score almost brings a fairytale-like aura to the narrative—the narrative being consumed by tragic beauty and even somewhat resembling the tale of Beauty and the Beast within the evolving relationship between Ewa and Bruno.
On that note—my oh my!—the picture boasts phenomenal performances across the board. Joaquin Phoenix, once again, is a tour de force, embodying a wholly different character as opposed to the role we saw him last in: Her. The fact of the matter is that he's undeniably one of our greatest actors who's capable of convincingly blending into completely dissimilar personalities; with this one, he's a very disturbed, morally ambiguous, brooding presence that enwraps this innocent, religious new immigrant with the sins and immorality of unforgiving capitalism. Later on, Jeremy Renner, personating a playful magician, fascinatingly intervenes in the compelling dynamic between Phoenix and Cotillard. By the way, honestly, I felt slightly underwhelmed by Marion Cotillard's performance after hearing an amplitude of praise as her occasional calmness to fairly shocking events throughout truly put me off.
Now, what I loved most about this cinematic marvel—1920's New York City magnificently reimagined with the most gorgeous cinematography, costume and set design up for display. It all creates that magical atmosphere which casts the viewers back into a profoundly visually-striking and indelible time period. Without the intention to give anything away, the film will eminently leave you with an elegiac shot of masterfully poetic contrast.
All things being considered, the narrative frankly can sometimes feel marginally contrived with the manner in which some of the characters just so happen to meet and are instantly forced into a developing relationship thereafter. The major characters all miraculously seem to have their eyes on Ewa. Simply said, some of the plot advancement can feel vaguely unbelievable.
At the end of the day, though, not only will the elegant story surely stay with me for the rest of the year (at least) but its breathtaking visuals will also be imprinted into my mind with its utterly aesthetic essence. The Immigrant—albeit its unfair placement in the middle of a blockbuster season—should not be disregarded; it's an elaborate period piece with continuously surprising plot development.
The Immigrant tells the story of the long and arduous journey many had to take in search of a better life. Unfortunately for moviegoers, the film is a long and arduous journey as well, in search of a better script.
Writer/director James Grey fashions an old-fashion melodramatic tale of an innocent young woman on hard times, trying to survive amid many hardships. Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and her sickly sister, Magda, are coming to America. Magda has one cough too many and is immediately quarantined while Ewa faces deportation. Befriended by a kind stranger named Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), Ewa becomes his beautiful pawn and is thrown into the world of human trafficking. The plot resembles a cheap dime-store novel, especially when Bruno's cousin, Emil a.k.a. Orlando the Magician (Jeremy Renner), enters the scene to whisk Ewa away from the sinful life of prostitution and lead her to the road of redemption. Yes, magic is certainly needed to make one believe this claptrap.
The actors try to make the story convincing but they are adrift with one clichéd scene after another. Phoenix has his moments, but he tends to over emote and Renner is simply wasted as a one-dimensional love interest. The only redeeming quality in the film is Ms. Cotillard's performance. Even if one never believes in the stilted dialog and predictable outcome of the story, the actress has that rare quality due to her nuanced acting choices and her innate beauty. She radiates as the camera goes in for its many close-ups. (There once were actresses that had that instant photographic allure...Swanson, Garbo, Dietrich come to mind. Cotillard has that screen essence. Let's hope she has better film properties in the future.
Grey's film may have been a labor of love, with an emphasis on the word "labor", Production values are strong, especially so with this independent film's limited budget. But the end result, while admirable, is a muddle. The Immigrant may give us the tired and the poor, but it is the huddled masses sitting in the movie theater that are yearning to be free as they clamor for the nearest exit. GRADE: C
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