The Immigrant (2014)
Starring Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner
Directed by James Grey
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
When Eva is turned away from entering the US after an erroneous claim is made that she willingly subjected herself to prostitution while on the ship to the mainland, she is forced to await return to Europe. Separated from her sister who was quarantined upon arrival, Eva is devastated until Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) sees her plight and, noticing her beauty, decides to help her out. However, Bruno's seeming benevolence isn't all it's cracked up to be. Bruno runs a burlesque hall which also happens to serve alcohol -- a hot commodity in 1921's prohibition era times -- and Bruno convinces Eva to use her feminine wiles to make money to help get her sister out of quarantine to see a legitimate doctor. The strong-willed, former nurse Eva finds her steadfastness wear down quickly as she sinks into a world unknown to her.
I was with The Immigrant until this point about forty-five minutes in. Sure, it was a bit depressing, but I could accept the interesting story and the solid performance from Ms. Cotillard. However, the film then shifts into a love triangle between Eva, Bruno, and a magician named Orlando (Jeremy Renner) and the love story feels ominously uncomfortable and restrictingly heavy. For the next seventy-five minutes, no one's happy, there's a lot of talking about how no one's happy, and this viewer wasn't happy either, finding himself zoning out and caring very little about any member of this trio.
Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for such a hefty piece. That's entirely possible. However, I can't help but think part of the issue lies in James Grey's direction which plods the film along at a glacial pace and becomes a bit unsure of itself in terms of what kind of film it is when the romantic triangle rears its head. As mentioned, Cotillard is good here and is positively the only reason to watch. Renner tries, but his character often seems like a caricature -- not as much as Phoenix's Bruno, however, which feels like a mash-up of typical 1920s gangster-y stereotypes. Unfortunately, Phoenix doesn't bring anything new to the table from an acting perspective either.
The RyMickey Rating: C-