|Cotillard is Oscar-worthy in Gray's excellent melodrama.|
Directed by James Gray
Produced by James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Christopher Woodrow and Greg ShapiroWritten by James Gray and Ric Menello
Starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner
James Gray's new film has been a long time coming, and it's worth the wait. Arriving at Ellis Island in 1921, Ewa (Cotillard) is a Polish immigrant traveling with her sister. Circumstances beyond her control threaten her deportation, while her weak sister is hospitalized. In steps Bruno (Phoenix), a burlesque producer and pimp, to keep her in America. Ewa moves in with him, and eventually becomes a prostitute. When she meets Bruno's cousin Emil (Renner), who goes by the name Orlando the Magician, a love triangle forms, threatening to undo all of them.
Though the film is almost too calculated, it remains a triumph in formalism for Gray - arguably the most underrated American filmmaker of his time. Most of the praise must go to Gray's precise direction, the stunning performances by the leads, the detailed production design, and Darius Khondji's lush cinematography, which would make Gordon Willis proud. Still, enough can't be said about the cast. Cotillard is a vision, delivering a heartbreaking performance, and Phoenix continues to deliver some of his best work with Gray. Renner is also very good here, though he's given far less screen time. The melodramatic nature of the material will no doubt be abrasive for some and enrapturing for others, but this gem deserves to be seen, if only for the performances and the production values. While it's not for everyone, I loved every minute of Gray's latest, which might be his greatest directorial achievement to date.
Oscar Potential: Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design (Cotillard and Phoenix have no chance, unfortunately.)