The Immigrant – Now Streaming on Netflix!

NetflixJoaquin Phoenix was a busy man during last year’s NYFF51. Following up HER, his second film,The Immigrant, is a story of a young polish immigrant named Ewa (Marion Cotillard). Landing at Ellis Island in 1921, Ewa is at her wits end when her sister is put into quarantine and she is about to be sent back home due to false reports that she is a loose woman. In swoops Joaquin’s character, Bruno. He promises to take her in and make sure she has a job to make enough money to get her sister released from the island. Once inside Bruno’s clutches, he emotionally manipulates her into working in his burlesque show. When the burlesque show doesn’t make enough money, she coerced into prostitution. Enter, Orlando, Bruno’s dashing stage magician cousin. He is sincere in his efforts to woo Ewa and invites her to travel as his assistant. Bruno will have none of this, as his passion for Ewa grows exponentially. They struggle with each other for loyalty and to survive.

 Director, James Gray, wrote both lead roles specifically for Marion and Joaquin. Marion is stunning in her innocence. In one month she learned over 20 pages of dialogue in Polish, a language that is completely foreign to her. Joaquin was completely immersed in his character. So much so that in between scenes he apologized to Marion for the things that Bruno had done. Jeremy Renner played Orlando. He is so incredibly charming that I could have watched an entire film just about his life. Gray explains that his character is based upon the real life magician and mentalist Ted Annemann. Renner also has an uncanny resemblance to Annemann in real life. The script is very near and dear to Gray’s heart. With Russian Jewish heritage, his inspiration first came about when looking at family photographs taken by his grandfather, who arrived at Ellis Island in 1923.

 The story seems a bit fantastical but on the whole is a great period piece. The costumes and the colors are dark and dank, reflecting the gritty time in Manhattan. Besides the performance of Renner, I would have to say the most intriguing part of the film is that fact that they were allowed to film on Ellis Island for 2 nights. Cast, crew, equipment and over 1000 extras were ferried across the island to show what it was like for so many immigrants to take their first steps onto American soil.

 Directed By: James Gray Screenplay by: James Gray and Richard Menello Starring: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner Content Advisory: Sexual content, Nudity and some language

Liz’s review originally published:

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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