THE IMMIGRANT (2014, James Gray)
The opening shot of THE IMMIGRANT is a look at the iconic Ellis Island Statue of Liberty — but instead of the frontal view we usually get in this moment, we see her back. Lady Liberty has turned on our heroine, and we’ll get no help from America. The final shot is even greater: splitting the screen into halves, each following one of our two main characters, with different fates through different frames. Everything in between is… solid, but not exactly groundbreaking. We get a lot more of the Lady Liberty symbolism, and some speeches about forgiveness, sin, and love. It’s all shot by Gray and the phenomenal DP Darius Khondji (he of SEVEN and MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS) in blacks and sickly yellows, elegantly put together and acted handsomely, especially by Joaquin Phoenix in yet another sensational turn. Marion Cotillard, however, doesn’t exactly find her way out of her character’s grim state, which is to be constantly nervous, depressed, angry, and desperate. Beyond her beauty, it’s hard to see what so many men see in Ewa; she’s about as fun to be around as a broken radiator. Still, it’s difficult not to be engrossed in her quest to reunite with her quarantined sister, and it’s even more interesting to see shades of humanity beneath Phoenix’s initially off-putting terror. This is the fourth film I’ve seen by Gray, and all of them have been perfectly fine. But I have yet to be blown away by this guy, and I fear it may be time to damn him with the faint praise of being just a solid filmmaker.