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FYC: Marion Cotillard in 'Two Days One Night'

Jose here. You know how sometimes a performer will win a gazillion awards for their breakthrough performance and then never be recognized again, even as they deliver much more complex, superior work? It’s the “been there done that” syndrome, which has sadly made most awards groups forget all about Marion Cotillard, who is once again Best Actress material in Two Days, One Night (Michael reviewed it here)

As the recently laid-off Sandra, Cotillard is unforgettable. We follow her as she visits her co-workers’ homes asking them to help her win her job back. As some show support, others display contempt and pity, making for a harrowing moviegoing experience. The Dardenne brothers, who in the past have been reluctant to work with movie stars, put their trust in Cotillard and the payoff is evident. The actress sheds all her glamour and star presence to play someone so fragile it seems as if being filmed is causing her pain. Sandra doesn’t talk much, but her face says everything. In one of the film’s most devastating moments, the Dardenne’s give Sandra some inner peace through a song in the radio, not only do they allow Cotillard’s smile to finally shine, but they also highlight the actress’ ability to reshape herself according to the emotions of her character. All throughout the film, Cotillard seems to be physically smaller, something she did in her Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf. The trick is more powerful here because Sandra is a “regular human being”.

Throughout the film we feel her pain and at times it’s so unbearable that it made me wonder what someone like Lars Von Trier would do with such a vulnerable character. The Dardenne’s are much more sensitive than the mad Dane and give Sandra her dignity, but not without pointing out how willingly she submits herself to humiliation in the name of survival. During most of the film Sandra wears a coral t-shirt with a ribbon pattern, which I feel Cotillard chose for the character. It makes her plea even more heartbreaking, as she knocks on doors trying to be festive and optimistic, when inside she’s completely destroyed.

Many cinephiles thought this turn would finally bring her the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival but it became the first Dardenne brothers’ film not to win a single award at Cannes. It was Marion's third straight loss at the festival (2012 Rust and Bone, 2013 The Immigrant) which is a head-scratcher considering who won in those respective years. As Two Days One Night gears up for its Oscar-qualifying release later this year, I can’t help but wonder, does Marion have to knock on every AMPAS’ member’s door to finally get nominated again?

Why do you think Oscar keeps ignoring Marion? Where do her recent performances rank among your favorites for each year? 

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Reader Comments (21)

I agree. She's my personal current frontrunner of the films I've seen this year - just ahead of Moore (Maps), ScarJo, Dorval and Chastain. (Seeing Pike tomorrow). Marion completely disappears in the role and I just love the film.

October 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

ugh, i just love marion now. cannot wait to see this! i was not a big fan of LA VIE EN ROSE, but she's been topping every performance since then.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkent

So far Marion is neck and neck with Essie Davis in The Babadook for my favorite lead actress performance of the year..

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

She's *amazing* in this! No need for mimicry, old age makeup or CGI amputations as in previous landmark roles of hers. It's just her in screen and it's a thing of wonder! I really hope this is Moore's year (in fact, Moore won at Cannes over Cotillard, althoug for Maps rather than Still Alice ) but I'd love for Cotillard to get nominated again.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

I'm so glad you've posted this! Her performance in Two Days, One Night is one of the best of the year and it's bewildering that it's been left out of the Oscar conversation so far.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

A wonderful performance - at once pared down and profound. And I love the fact this site continues to honor it so eloquently. I think (at least I'm hoping) that once the dust has cleared and the critics' awards have been apportioned, Marion Cotillard will be very much in the Oscar conversation. By this time, I'd have given her three trophies, one each for "La Vie en Rose"and "Rust and Bone" And - although she was the only thing I liked in "Midnight in Paris", she was marvelous in it - and deserved the supporting prize that year. At this point, I expect the chosen five to be Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike, Anne Dorval (whose profile as the star of "Mommy" will also rise when the critics start naming favorites) plus La Cotillard.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I haven't seen this one, but just her work in The Immigrant alone is enough to warrant her a place in the pantheon of actresses.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Yes Marion is amazing. Again she knocked me over with a performance so good I can't believe it. As for awards I hope she gets in but if not it's fine. She has one already and we are the lucky ones. We get to live in an age where she's in the movies. How fantastic is that...

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

We must salute her. She works for the love of art not for the awards.

P.S. Sorry if I sound excessive, but I really really like her last three roles.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

God will punish me and she'll sign for Iron Man 4 ;)

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I like her quite a bit in Rust and Bone, but there's no shame in losing to the girls of Beyond the Hills.
Looking forward to seeing her in this. The list directors she's gotten to work the last few years is Kidman-esque.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

"Why do you think Oscar keeps ignoring Marion?"
because she keeps making cannes bait instead of oscar bait? (and that's not working either)
but seriously, her 'snubs' are easily explained. foreign(-feeling) films, or overhyped (at least in terms of awards) stuff - "midnight in paris", "inception", "public enemies". maybe "nine" was weird, because I believe she was better received than cruz, who got nominated, but then she didn't have the afterflow factor.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

If she tops her wotk in The Immigrant then i am in for a real treat.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Like some others I haven't seen her in this yet, but she was outstanding in The Immigrant (even her Polish was really good!), so I would love to see her nominated again. She's done some impressive things since winning the Oscar: best in show in Nine, terrific in Rust and Bone. It's actually kind of ironic, because there were moments in La Vie En Rose when I thought she was awful...

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpaulj

Since her performance in "La Vie en Rose" is getting some hate, Imma just say that I think it's one of the best performances I've ever seen. She has yet to top it, but that isn't to say she hasn't been giving one incredible performance after another these last few years.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

"her 'snubs' are easily explained. foreign(-feeling) films"

As if the Oscars had never nominated foreign films before... Sophia Loren, Isabelle Adjani and Liv Ullmann were nominated for more than one foreign performance, not to mention the foreign actors who eventually got nominated again after winning an Oscar like Benicio del Toro, Javier Bardem and Christoph Waltz.

"or overhyped (at least in terms of awards)"
So how do you explain overhyped films like Silver Linings Playbook, Les Miserables, Django Unchained and the worst of them American Hustle getting acting nominations (and some of them win)? how do you explain Amy Adams getting nominated every year for bland and forgettable performances that no one cares while Cotillard gets snubbed for her best performances?
For me, there's no real explanation for this, Cotillard may be one of those actors who is on the black list of the Academy, no matter how great her performance is, she won't be nominated, seems like the same can be said about the Cannes best actress, for three consecutive years she had the most praised performance of the festival but didn't get not even a special mention and this year even the Dardennes left Cannes empty-handed - a thing that happened for the first time... just a coincidence? of course not!

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

alice - maybe they just really hate her then, because of the 9/11 conspiracy theory thing. but I still think it's reasonable: full foreign performances are not that common (and there would be two in the same year - with riva also competing), and the "not getting nominated" part sort of defines the overhyped in terms of awards prospects (and I don't find "midnight in paris" or "inception" nomination worthy, but that does not matter).

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Marcelo, might be that, but it's weird that the Academy invited her one year after that controversy to present and give the Oscar to Kate Winslet, they could have invited someone else, especially if they really hate Cotillard.
And I think that they can nominate more than one foreign performance in the same year, they could have nominated Riva and Cotillard in different categories last year, although both were leads in their respective movies, but the Academy always nominate actors in the wrong category anyway.

In 2007, Penelope Cruz and Adriana Barraza were nominated for performances in spanish, but they were nominated in different categories, the same could have happen to Cotillard and Riva, but the lack of promotion from SPC didn't help either, they campaigned only for Amour and forgot Cotillard and Rust and Bone.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Marion worked her way into my heart after seeing her in Nine, oddly enough. I haven't kept up much with her more recent work but i might tune in for this one.

October 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Alice, haven't you paid attention to «West Side Story» lyrics? Del Toro may be giving performances in a language other than English (since we have no official language there are really no foreign languages) but he's Puerto Rican which makes him American from birth. But I agree with the rest. And I don't like emoticons or know how to use them but my first two sentences would have smily faces if I did.

October 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCapita

Her performance in Dardennes' latest masterpiece as the emotionally fragile Sandra has to earn her another Oscar win. It's the kind of a performance that deserves to be pit among the greatest acting ever put on screen. The same goes for her awe-inspiring work in "The Immigrant". Oh my God, she's the greatest actress of all time and she has yet to receive a second Oscar nomination!!! This is really ridiculous. She's simply mesmerizing in both films this year and I'd be glad to watch her win for either of them. She totally deserves it for both.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStergios

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