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The Immigrant wins praise for Marion Cotillard at Cannes

The Immigrant

Story by Jack Foley

MARION Cotillard could be in awards contention once more for her performance in James Gray’s new drama The Immigrant, which has earned her a lot of positive reviews from Cannes.

The French actress, who won an Oscar for portraying Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, this time stars as a Polish immigrant entering New York in 1921 in search of the American Dream, who finds her subsequent life delivers anything but.

The film co-stars Gray regular Joaquin Phoenix as a burlesque theatre owner and possible conman and Jeremy Renner as a sympathetic streetwise magician. But while some critics have praised both Cotillard and the film itself, others found The Immigrant dull.

On the positive side for both, Variety hailed the film as “a romantic tale that cuts to the very soul of the American experience” and added: “This rich, beautifully rendered film boasts an arrestingly soulful performance from Marion Cotillard as a Polish nurse-turned-prostitute for whom the symbolic promise of Ellis Island presents only hardship.”

It went on to conclude that the film is “an ambitious yet imperfect cinematic classic with the heft and heart of great literature”, while crediting Gray for seeing “something in Cotillard that no other helmer – not even her husband, Guillaume Canet – has brought out in her before. Recognizing the deep, haunted quality of Cotillard’s gaze, he features her eyes as the soul of his story”.

The Hollywood Reporter was similarly positive, describing it as “a sensitively observed melodrama”, which “is anchored by another superior performance by Marion Cotillard”.

While praising Gray’s classic directing style and the performances of Renner and Phoenix, The Hollywood Reporter concluded that Cotillard “makes the movie, creating a haunted figure who may one day be able to go on to a new phase but is certainly permanently marked by her multiple harrowing ordeals”.

They also felt that the film itself “structurally resembles the sorts of highly dramatic women’s stories that were old Hollywood staples for actresses such as Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck”.

Screen Daily also praised Cotillard, saying that she “keeps the volume set at 11 with her strongly-accented performance”. But it felt the film itself fell short, concluding that it’s as “pretty as its central character but, in end, fatally dull”.

The Standard, meanwhile, said The Immigrant succeeds in “showing us the terrible uncertainties of the period – fleshed out by fine production values, and cinematography from Darius Khondji which clearly refers to the paintings and autochrome colour photographs of the time”.

Their critic concludes: “ If the film lacks the drama and excitement of Once Upon A Time In America, it is a sincere and decently handled portrait of a time when so many believed the US to be an almost mythical land of plenty.”

And Empire wrote: “Though it’s safe to say the Golden Globes will find places at the dinner table for Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner and Marion Cotillard, Gray’s latest is a middlebrow period piece that crawls along at a snail’s pace and won’t find too much favour at the box office.”

The Guardian, meanwhile, opined: “James Gray’s shapeless, stifling opera of sorrow is overlaid with a thick sepia of solemnity that can’t obscure its lack of ideas.”

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