Just days after launching an Oscar campaign for “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” Harvey Weinstein is adding yet another film to his unpredictable roster of awards season contenders: James Gray’s 1920s period drama, “The Immigrant.”
The decision was likely influenced by the film’s star Marion Cotillard landing two more best actress prizes (from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online) to a haul that already included a citation from the New York Film Critics Circle and a Spirit Awards nomination. As of Tuesday, The Weinstein Company had added “The Immigrant” to the list of films on its guild and Academy screening website. Two showings of the film will be held in Los Angeles, on Dec. 14 and 16. No screening dates have been announced for any other cities, and Academy voters have yet to receive physical or online screeners.
Until now, “The Immigrant” had been conspicuous by its absence on the Weinstein awards site, where one could find predictably heavy promotion for the likes of “The Imitation Game” and Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” among such Oscar longshots as “Begin Again” and “Eleanor Rigby.” But with only a few weeks left in awards voting, and nominating long-ago closed for such harbingers as the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, Weinstein’s rearguard action may prove to be too little too late to generate significant awareness for Gray’s film, which received a limited release in May, more than a year after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
That release came amid rumors that Gray and Weinstein (who had demanded extensive changes to Gray’s sophomore feature, “The Yards,” in 2000) had bickered in the editing room over final cut. Speaking to Variety at “The Immigrant’s” New York premiere, Weinstein played down those allegations, praising Gray’s film as “everyone’s story — my story, my grandparents’ story. This is our country.” Still, despite strong reviews and a promising opening-weekend gross of $70,000 from three screens, “The Immigrant” never expanded past 150 screens and ended its theatrical run with just over $2 million in domestic box office.
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But in a lead actress field that pundits agree is unusually thin this year, Cotillard’s sudden surge seems to have struck a chord with Weinstein, who has fired up a similar eleventh-hour campaign for Jessica Chastain’s title role in “Eleanor Rigby” (a movie that failed to reach even $1 million in U.S. ticket sales after emerging from its own protracted editing-room battle).
Complicating matters is the fact that Cotillard, like Chastain, has more than one (dark) horse in this year’s awards race, and unlike Chastain (whose roles in “Interstellar” and “A Most Violent Year” are clearly supporting), she is indisputably the lead in both. Cotillard’s other film is the Dardenne Brothers’ French-language “Two Days, One Night,” which IFC opens in limited release on Dec. 24. It’s a formidable, Method Acting double-header for the “La Vie en Rose” Oscar winner: for “The Immigrant,” Cotillard learned to speak Polish (a la Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice”); for “Two Days,” she deglamorized herself as a small-town factory worker, fitting in seamlessly with the Dardennes’ cast of unknowns and non-professionals.
For those keeping score, so far it seems to be a draw. Where the Spirit Awards nominated the actress for “The Immigrant,” the NYFCC and BSFC cited her for both films, while the NYFCO cited her only for “Two Days.” Such awards-season self-competition is hardly unique to Cotillard. In 2008, Kate Winslet was heavily promoted in the lead actress race for both “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader” (eventually winning her Oscar for the latter).
But like “Two Days” (which is also representing Belgium in the foreign-language Oscar race), “The Immigrant” has riches to offer beyond Cotillard’s stellar turn. The film’s cinematographer, Darius Khondji, is also up for a Spirit Award, and was cited by the NYFCC, while the costume design is by six-time Oscar bridesmaid Patricia Norris, most recently nominated for her work on “12 Years a Slave.” So regardless of who (if anyone) wins in a looming IFC-TWC dogfight, the belated addition of Gray’s film to the great awards debate should be viewed as a welcome one indeed.