Directed by James Gray
Written by James Gray and Ric Menello
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner
Ewa Cybulska (Cotillard) is alone in America. After coming from Poland, she’s facing deportation before Bruno Weiss (Phoenix) comes to the rescue. This con-artist soon forces her into work as a show girl. Only after meeting a charming magician (Renner) does she see a way out. Now she’s stuck between two men as she seeks her freedom.
This drama was written by Ric Menello (Two Lovers) and James Gray (We Own the Night), with Gray also directing the movie. The film stars Marion Cotillard (Public Enemies), Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), and Jeremy Renner (The Town).
This is an interesting story, set in New York the 1920s. As the immigrants flooded the country, the government created some unique and sometimes insurmountable obstacles for people. These obstacles provided a unique story line for the movie. The drama is built around the realities a young woman might have faced, especially alone in a new land. The screenplay uses both English and Polish languages, creating a unique challenge for the actors. The writing also doesn’t stray from the harsh realities of the story. If you’ve seen The Godfather: Part II, you’ve already seen one depiction of the challenges of immigrating.
Unfortunately this movie does seem to dwell on some of the hardships a bit too much. This can normally be overcome, but the constant darker tone really hurts the story as a whole. It also seems like the pace of this movie crawls, even when it should run. Had the writing lightened up a bit, it might have allowed the payoff to make a bigger impact. Despite these issues this is still a decent story.
The acting in this movie is great when it comes to the three stars. Marion Cotillard not only gives a moving performance, but she does it in two languages. For the film she worked with a dialogue coach to ensure that her Polish and her accent worked within the movie. Joaquin Phoenix is also wonderful in this one. As always, he seemed to connect with the emotions of his character. The resulting performance is emotionally driven and great to see. Jeremy Renner is another great part of this movie. His role is less complicated in many ways, but still required a lot of range. His performance really works as the counterbalance to Phoenix. These two create much of the tension that drives the later parts of the movie. The rest of the cast all do nice work in pushing the story along, making this a well-acted film.
This film features good camera work, costuming, and set designs. While none of the production aspects of the film are groundbreaking, they all work nicely. I would definitely recommend this to fans of drama. I would also suggest this to anyone who loves any of the stars. The tone is a bit hard to sit through, but there are good moments. Overall, this is an interesting movie, but not a must-see. I give this one 3.2 out of 5 stars.