The Immigrant constantly crosses the line between being completely boring and utterly brilliant, so I'll agree on something in-between. The film follows the story of Ewa Cybulska (Marion Catillard), a woman attempting to get a boat into America with her ill-sister (Angela Sarafyan). After her sister is put into quarantine, everything seems to be going terrible for Ewa. That is until a wealthy man, Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) arrives and offers her a chance to get a job, which will allow her enough money to get her sister out of quarantine. What Ewa doesn't realise is that Bruno is the head of a prostitution rink, so the job she's agreed to do is fairly self-explanatory.
The primary reason that this film is so hard to turn away from is the fact that the sets, costuming and makeup is to die for, something I rarely say. The Immigrant is a beautiful film to look at. Perhaps the half-naked women had something to do with it too, but I shall try to leave my perversions out of this review. 1920s New York is always something I find awe in watching. It is, perhaps, a dirty time period, but on film it always looks absolutely ravishing, especially when aided by the mesmerising cinematography. The film's bleak, mundane costumes play an important role in the film, but more importantly, they're stunning. The costumes, mixed with the makeup, have made this one of the most rewarding viewings of 2014.
The film is heightened by masterful performances from Marion Catillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner. Marion Catillard is one of those actresses that I frequently forget about, which is a real shame. Then, suddenly, she pops up in a film and I am reminded of her brilliance. The Immigrant boasts one of her finer performances as the weary and potentially violent, yet always sympathetic, Ewa. Phoenix and Renner are the only other real actors here that matter. There's a wide range of supporting characters, but most of them don't play a great importance in the overall film. Their performances are forgettable, but that's because they're not needed. Most don't even appear in the film for more than a few scenes, at most. It's not their movie. If it was, then I can guarantee you that I'd be more annoyed, but there's no point in discussing that which did not occur.
Once the credits begun to roll, I was unsure of how the film left me. I was just left there, contemplating what it made me feel like. I'm still not entirely sure what I got out of this movie. To be honest, I don't see the movie ending any other way, and the tension was very much there, but I just can't say that I'm head over heels about the closing scene. It just happens, and we're meant to accept that it happens. Then it's over. I was left feeling empty. Underwhelmed doesn't feel like the right word to describe it, but my feelings are certainly along those lines.
To sum up, The Immigrant's masterful performances, costumes, make-up and set design make it a rewarding viewing, but the supporting cast don't do anything of any real relevance and the ending left me feeling rather empty.
3 1/2 Stars