James Gray‘s The Immigrant is a respectably authentic period drama, set in 1921 Manhattan, about a beautiful Polish immigrant named Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and her struggle to survive the cruel, slimy exploitations of Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a pimp who doubles as a low-level theatrical showman. Darius Khondji‘s Godfather, Part II-like photography and the general production values are top of the line, but the pace is slow and the story is a ho-hummer.

Maton Cotillard, star of The Immigrant. of

(l. to. r.) Jeremy Renner, director-writer James Gray, Marion Cotillard — Friday, 5.24, 11:15 am.

The Immigrant costar Jeremy Renner.

If you put aside the weak story, you can certainly call The Immigrant a well-made film. Gray is a good director trying to do the right thing with the right material, but I must have looked at my watch six or seven times.

Ewa has no money or power or anything when she arrives at New York’s Ellis Island. Her sister has been placed in quarantine due to suffering from “lung disease,” and resultantly Ewa’s entire purpose in life is to somehow get her sister off the island and away from all this crap. But Ewa becomes a total pawn in the predatory Bruno’s hands, performing as Lady Liberty in his two-bit stage shows but mainly serving as an occasional prostitute.

Cotillard isn’t playing a character named Ewa as much as playing herself playing a character named Ewa. Marion Cotillard has gone back in time and is dealing with issues in 1921 New York, but as Marion would and not Ewa. I only know that Ewa/Marion never seems to play her cards with any kind of deception or cleverness, like anyone would. She’s always just surveying the sordid nature of 1921 New York City with those big, watery, guilt-tripping eyes.

“Oh, my, my…I am so pure, I want only to be good and go to church and have children and these people are so cruel…what am I to do? Should I sleep with that man? Oh, my. Is Bruno perhaps less of an animal than I suspected earlier?”

Will poor Ewa, a former nurse who is pure as the driven snow because the highly emotive, pure-of-heart Cotillard is portraying her, be pulled down by Bruno and become a full-time hooker, or will she make it out of this sinkhole and maybe head for California with Orlando the musician (Jeremy Renner)? Renner is clearly the guy she needs to hook up with, and yet she waits and stammers and isn’t sure what to do and yaddah yaddah, and then something happens in the third act that betrays the audience’s collective hope in this regard and sends the movie right down the drain. After this happened I said “all right, fuck this movie.”

Phoenix is excessive, for sure. He always bellows, always seems to flick his tongue, always seems to be inhabiting the spirit of some kind of seal or serpent or reptile.

I have to run down to the Carlton for those Nebraska interviews….later.