I saw Public Enemies last night—and plenty of critics have already weighed in about how cool and beautiful and entertaining the movie is (Rex Reed called it “one of the best movies of the year”). But here’s what I took away from it: my total and unabashed girl-crush on Marion Cotillard is still going and stronger than ever.
The 33-year-old actress (and, hooray to her being born in the mid-’70s!) first got noticed by sharp-eyed American audiences in Tim Burton’s 2003 Big Fish, and then again—by the very few people who saw it, anyway—in the Russell Crowe bomb A Good Year in 2006. She’s beautiful in that classic, old-fashioned way, with fine delicate bones (so French!) and coy kitten eyes. Of course, there has never been a shortage of beautiful women trying to make it in Hollywood. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, came La Vie en Rose and her incredible performance as Little Sparrow Édith Piaf. Everyone loves to to poke fun at how all a beautiful actress needs to do to win awards is to ugly themselves up a bit (see The Hours, Monster, Monster’s Ball), but Ms. Cotillard’s performance went beyond the cosmetic: The New York Times’ Stephen Holden wrote, “Marion Cotillard’s feral portrait of the French singer Édith Piaf as a captive wild animal hurling herself at the bars of her cage is the most astonishing immersion of one performer into the body and soul of another I’ve ever encountered in a film.” Agreed! And for those who never got around to seeing the film—which, considering it only made a little over $10 million in the U.S, is probably most of you—all one needed to fall in love with Marion Cotillard was to see her sweep through last year’s Oscars, pristine in a white and silver Jean Paul Gaultier mermaid gown, to win the Best Actress statue and give one of the more charming acceptance speeches in recent memory: “Thank you, life … thank you, love! It’s true there are some angels in this city.” (For added charm, check out her singing in the press room of the Academy Awards.)
In Public Enemies, it’s 100 percent believable that Johnny Depp’s John Dillinger would risk imprisonment and death just to be with her (see the movie for the hottest come-on line in recent memory) and, not for nothing, the high-cheekbone quotient onscreen is rather overwhelming when they appear together. Plus, there’s just something about Cotillard, an understated and intelligent elegance that seems to belong in the turn of a different century. Is this the reason why she’s not part of the Us Weekly cycle of starlets? Whatever it is, it’s an appreciated whiff of fresh air, away from the interchangeable uber-toned, fake-breasted and extension’d brigade that seems to make up the heft of those glossy pages.
She’ll next appear in November in Rob Marshall’s highly (and I mean highly) anticipated Nine, with Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren (if it’s half as good as this trailer, we’re all in for a treat). Next year will have her starring in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight follow-up, Inception, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, and Michael Caine. So, three cheers for the rise of Mademoiselle Cotillard!