Talk about economy of cinematic language! This film feels like it is plucked right from the days of Murnau, Vidor, and Stroheim. Even if its[beautifully scripted] dialogue was stripped away, this would still be a moving, cohesive melodrama. Pure cinema!
This is the 1st world version of films with one of the most common themes in the Philippines, the girl- goes-to-city-becomes-a-puta theme. But we need to talk about the actress, Marion Cotillard. She is so great, I wanna hug her. But the movie is not about just the difficulties of an immigrant. It is a tragic love story.
****1/2, at the very least. Gray's ability -- always with more than its share of confidence and skill -- to tell a story with rich, fine, classical strokes, leaving so many layers and shadings and meanings to discover in every aspect (visually, temporally, aurally), is a wonder. Time will surely vindicate this achievement with the tremendous stature it deserves.
This film has a look and feel that harkens back to classical American auteurs like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. It is so subtle that it can be mistaken for minor, but James Gray's masterful control of the tone and pacing is electric. It is a grand, expressive drama that develops in such a Dostoevskian manner that one might think this is an adaptation of one of his great novels.
Gray's films with co-screenwriter Richard Menello aren't as strong, lacking dramatic power until the great final shot. As like their Two Lovers, it's an unmemorable and dramatically indifferent buildup to an inevitable but finally effectively emotional and dramatically rich conclusion. This is as much due to the story as the simplistic characterization. Gray is often at his dramatic best when he writes alone.
Well, they have really f*cked up the promotional campaign for this film, haven't they? If it had come out in late 2014 it might have been a major contender during this awards season, and certainly made more money at the box office. Phoenix and Cottilard deliver very strong performances (Renner not so much), and the film itself, even if flawed at times, has 'Oscar bait' written all over it. Oh well...