Picturehouse via Everett Collection
If you've ever seen Marion Cotillard in a film and asked yourself, "Is that the same actress from ____?" we are here to help. As the French film star-turned-American film star is preparing for the upcoming release of The Immigrant — her highly-anticipated film with Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner — we look back at 10 of her many amazing performances and attempt to rank them. This is a near-impossible task when they're all so brilliant, and Cotillard has taken on a myriad unforgettable characters over the years. For those not entirely familiar with the name, here are 10 reasons to get to know her, and for her biggest fans, feel free to disagree and share your own ranking in the comments.
10. Public Enemies
In the 2009 film from director Michael Mann, Cotillard played John Dillinger's lover, Billie Frechette. She beat out a slew of American actresses to play the singer/waitress who stole the outlaw's heart.
9. Little White Lies
In the fantastic French comedy directed by her partner Guillaume Canet, Cotillard delivers a memorable performance as Marie. After a good friend is critically injured, she and a group of pals have a complicated and drama-filled vacation during which Marie smokes pot, takes a lover, and offers true support to the ones who need it most. It's a rebellious sort of character that we often see Cotillard playing, but it never gets old.
8. A Very Long Engagement
Another beloved French film star takes the lead in this one, but even alongside Audrey Tautou's standout performance, Cotillard holds her own as Tina Lombardi. She gives a thrilling performance as a vengeful prostitute, taking down the men responsible for her lover's death. Her story functions as a great parallel to Audrey's character Mathilde, who is also searching for answers about her missing lover, but goes about it in a far less violent way.
7. Midnight in Paris
"You have just about one of the best faces ever" — truer words were never spoken. Cotillard as Picasso's lover and muse (Adriana) is probably one of the most perfectly cast roles. She embodied all of the nostalgia and Parisian enchantment we associate with this amazing film.
As the wife of Italian filmmaker Guido Contini, Cotillard slays all in this epic revenge, burlesque scene that took her out of her housewife role and brought her back to the stage. The film adaptation of Maury Yeston's musical centered around a host of talented actresses as Guido's women — Penélope Cruz, Kate Hudson, and Nicole Kidman all delivered strong performances. But it's Cotillard as Mrs. Contini who manages to cut her husband down and bring the director to his knees.
5. The Dark Knight Rises
Moviegoers everywhere got the shock of their cinematic lives back in 2012 when Cotillard, initially thought to be the sweet and lovely philanthropist Miranda Tate, revealed herself as the daughter of Ra's al Guhl. That slow knife, and the story of her childhood escape from hell on earth made her one of the most excellent villains we'd ever met.
After her role in Christopher Nolan's Oscar-winning film, Cotillard finally started to become more of a household name for American audiences. She shocked, swayed, and frightened us as Mal -- a woman, a dream, a projection of the subconscious of her husband, protagonist Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio). Stuck between reality and limbo, her haunting and violent presence brought much of the tragic beauty to this powerful narrative.
3. Love Me If You Dare
Over 10 years ago Cotillard found love on the film set of Love Me If You Dare. She and Guilluame Canet now have a little boy together, but they started out in a brilliantly dark story about young love and a game of dare gone terribly wrong (or terribly right, depending on how you like your film endings).
2. Rust and Bone
A troubled boxer and an orca trainer who suffers a terrible accident develop an intense bond in this dark and brilliant tale based on the short stories of Craig Davidson. In one of her finest hours, Cotillard plays Stéphanie and her onscreen transformation from one type of woman, to another, to another is thrilling to witness. Her powerful chemistry with Matthias Schoenhaerts (who also delivers a knockout performance) makes the film a heartbreaking, spectacular experience in love, pain, and family.
1. La Vie En Rose
As amazing as she has been in all of these other performances, nothing compares to Cotillard's turn as beloved French singer and performer Édith Piaf in the 2007 biopic La Vie en Rose. The actress became the first to win a Best Actress Academy Award for a French-language role, as the powerhouse performance simply could not be compared to anything else that came out that year. Cotillard was unrecognizable as Piaf, and brought to life one of the most compelling true stories of our time.
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The story of the most dominant racehorse of all time does not easily fit into the standard inspirational sports flick mold. Such films typically require its protagonists to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles be they competitive (Hoosiers) personal (The Natural) societal (Ali) or some combination of all three (Remember the Titans). But by all accounts the greatest challenges to Secretariat capturing of the 1973 Triple Crown were not rival horses — indeed Secretariat had no true rival — but a pair of slow starts and an abscess. And abscesses — apologies to dermatologists — simply aren’t all that effective as dramatic devices.
Lacking most of the vital ingredients of the traditional underdog movie formula Disney’s Secretariat is forced to synthesize them. Its screenplay written by Mike Rich and based rather loosely on the book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack adopts a conventional save-the-farm framework: When her parents pass away within months of each other Denver housewife Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is advised to sell off her family’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables a beautiful but unprofitable horse-breeding enterprise in order to pay the onerous inheritance taxes levied by the state. But Penny her deceased father’s hackneyed horse-inspired counsel fresh in her mind (“You’ve got to run your own race ” etc. etc.) is loath to depart with such a cherished heirloom. So she concocts a scheme just idiotic enough to work betting the farm — literally — that her new horse Big Red in whom she has an almost Messianic faith will win the Kentucky Derby Preakness and Belmont races in succession.
Of course Big Red under the stage name Secretariat goes on to do just that but only after the film subjects us to nearly two hours of manufactured melodrama. Lane grasping all-too conspicuously for awards consideration treats every line as if it were the St. Crispin’s Day speech. Her character Penny exhibits a hair-trigger sensitivity to the sounds of skeptics and naysayers bursting forth with a polite rebuke and a stern sermon for anyone who dares doubt her crusade from the trash-talking owner of a rival horse to her annoyingly pragmatic husband (Dylan Walsh).
Lane isn’t alone in her grandiosity. The entire production reeks of it as director Randall Wallace lines the story with fetid chunks of overwrought Oscar bait like so many droppings in an untended stable even using Old Testament quotations and gospel music to endow Penny’s quest with biblical significance. John Malkovich is kind enough to inject some mirth into the heavy-handed proceedings hamming it up as Secretariat’s trainer Lucien Laurin a French-Canadian curmudgeon with an odd sartorial palette. It’s not enough however to alleviate the discomfort of witnessing the film's quasi-Sambo depiction of Secretariat’s famed groom Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis) which reaches its cringeworthy zenith when Sweat runs out to the track on the eve of the Belmont Stakes and exclaims to no one in particular that “Big Red done eat his breakfast this mornin’!!!” Bagger Vance would be proud. Whether or not Ellis’ portrayal of Sweat’s cadence and mannerisms is accurate (and for all I know it may well be) the character is too thinly drawn to register as anything more than an amiable simple-minded servant.
Animal lovers will be happy to know that the horses in Secretariat come off looking far better than their human counterparts and not just because they’re alloted the best dialogue. In the training and racing sequences Wallace effectively conveys the strength and majesty of the fearsome animals drawing us into the action and creating a strong element of suspense even though the final result is a fait accompli. It's too bad the rest of the film never makes it out of the gate.