Saturday, January 16, 2010

Supporting Actress Blogathon 2009: Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette in Public Enemies

This is the first time I ever participate in StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Blogathon. Actually, it's the first blogathon I ever participate in. With that in mind, I wanted this first contribution to be something I could be proud of. So, I racked my brain and thought of a supporting performance that had grabbed my attention. Sure enough, plenty sprung to mind; but I wanted to avoid the obvious choices (Mo'nique), at least for my first post. And so, I chose a performance that was one of the few things I enjoyed in Michael Mann's Public Enemies.

Academy-Award-winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)could have rested on her laurels in this movie. Plenty of her costars were doing just that. Instead, Cotillard delivers a remarkable turn as a supporting actress in a movie that was otherwise just not that interesting. Let's break it down.

Cotillard plays Billie Mary Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, a coat-check girl that meets notorious bank robber John Dillinger and becomes his lover. Her reasons? She was bored with her life and felt like she needed to be protected. Now, these simplistic reasons coupled with a stale script could have spelled disaster for most actresses, but Cotillard handles it expertly.

The way Cotillard avoids the double-whammy threat mentioned above is by sticking to what I think great "actressing at the edges" is all about: the details. Cotillard doesn't rely on a fantastic script or an engrossing story. She just gives the role little idiosyncratic touches that make it her own. And while maybe she does have an advantage over other potential contenders because she has an "Oscar scene" (the interrogation), that's not what kept me interested. Rather, it was scenes like her first date with Dillinger and the way her eyes twinkled with interest as he told her about his exploits that made me fall in love with her. Her interrogation scene wouldn't have been half as effective if we didn't care about her character, and we would've had no reason to do so if it wasn't for her wonderful performance. For all of this, I nominate Marion Cotillard as one of 2009's best supporting actresses.

Au revoir,
M. Cinema

P.S. For more fantastic "actressing at the edges", head over to StinkyLulu.

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