Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Immigrant Bores...Weinstein Company was Right

Marion Cotillard as the down-on-her-luck immigrant in limbo, Eva.

Never thought I'd utter those words. Harvey Weinstein still strikes fear in the heart of everyone who's ever worked in Hollywood, or fucking heard of the movies. But here's the thing. With Jeremy Renner's new film Kill the Messenger (2014) coming out, he's been talking into a lot of microphones about how the release of his previous film; The Immigrant was 'frustrating' because the Weinstein company kept it on the down low, despite it making the rounds at Cannes, and other reputable film festivals with critics actually comparing it to the work of Elia Kazan...was it though?
The three principles all have new movies, big ones, slated to be released this year. Marion Cotillard has the gritty emotional drama Two Days, One Night (2014) which had its US Premiere at the New York Film Festival about a woman who is at risk of being fired from her job if her co-workers unanimously decide on a raise, the ever-confusing but undeniably talented Joaquin Phoenix has the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Paul Thomas Anderson epic Inherent Vice (2014) based on the incendiary Thomas Pynchon novel, while Renner has the aforementioned Kill the Messenger (2014) which looks halfway decent and is marketed as Renner's best performance since The Hurt Locker (2010) ...we'll see. 
Jeremy Renner as Orlando the Magician who steals Eva's heart and does a lot of Houdini-esue illusions. Really reminds me of a Turn-of-the-Century GOB Bluth...magic DOES exist!
I just hope that The Immigrant was a misnomer in all of their careers because it was more dull than paint drying. It had a very interesting premise; a young Polish woman who's sister gets stuck on Ellis Island during the Great Migration at the turn of the century so she turns to a life of prostitution on Manhattan's Lower East Side in order to raise money to have her sister released so they could start a new life in the land of the free. Joaquin plays her pimp/father figure/predatory but lovable mentor and Renner plays his cousin who's a low-level magician with a kind heart and a boner for Eva (Cotillard). 
For actors of this caliber, all of which have been nominated for Academy Awards, (Cotillard won for La Vie en Rose) I was not expecting such subdued, banal performances. It's as if the Absinthe the characters drink throughout the film was real and they were always 10 feet under water. 

A lot of this film is two talking heads being stressed about things and talking about money. We get it. Maybe throw us some existential crisis about the irony of the American dream...or is that too advanced?
With a low budget as this film had, there is opportunity to make it dreamlike, surreal, and whimsical, but what we have a case of here is more on production design not enough on performance and story. The story is highly predictable, and rather pathetic. Poor Marion who has always played strong women who have had to overcome unsurmountable odds totally fails in her weepy, pity party performance. And Joaquin can barely talk. Maybe he was trying to channel Brando, but literally, I had to watch this with subtitles. Renner actually gives the most heartfelt performance there is but that's really really not saying much. I totally understand why the Weinstein Company's decision to give this understated watered-down version of Kazan's America, America (1963) a limited release because they didn't want to deal with the inevitable drop in returns because it is a snoozefest, despite having really excellent material to work with. It's now streaming on Netflix Instant, and people involved should be thankful for that. Watch it if you must. If you have to take a nap half way through, that's totally understandable. Trailer below:

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