Take a Drink: whenever Cotillard takes a pill or has her illness referred to
Take a Drink: for each hard won vote
Take a Drink: for each devastating refusal
Take a Drink: whenever somebody says they didn’t create this situation
Do a Shot: for vicious corporate bullshit
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
It takes a special kind of actor or actress to play average. Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn were amazing actresses, but you wouldn’t have bought them for a minute if they played a common housewife. Daniel Day-Lewis has enough range to embody paralyzed author Christy Brown, Daniel Plainview, and Abraham Freakin’ Lincoln, yet this is what happened when he tried to play a regular(ish) guy.
Don’t worry, nobody else remembers it either.
However, in Two Days, One Night, that is exactly the task put before the glamorous Marion Cotillard. She plays a factory worker who loses her job when her small company forces her sixteen coworkers to choose between their yearly bonus of 1,000 euros and keeping her on. Only two choose her, but after her boss agrees to a revote on Monday she has, well, two days and one night to convince enough people to change their opinions for her to keep her job.
The Belgian Dardennes Brothers aren’t a household name here, but they’ve won not one, but two Palme D’Ors at Cannes with their signature understated docurealist social dramas, shot in unassuming handheld style without filters, frills, or even non-diagetic music. They also typically employ non-professional actors (and do predominantly here as well) and create the environment for them not to act, but just be their characters.
Also, what every TV producer has done for Charlie Sheen for two decades
With this film, though, they stepped out of this comfort zone and hired by far the most famous actor they’ve ever worked with in Cotillard, and they, and she, rise to the occasion. A very gaunt, completely deglammed Cotillard doesn’t act, she just is this harried woman on the razor edge of giving up hope. The Dardennes refuse to spoonfeed exposition, but dole it out in small details and observations that steadily build these characters, just like we learn the character and situation of strangers in real life.
This makes the story genuinely gripping, as we gradually understand and care for Cotillard and her coworkers’ varied challenges more and more. There are no villains or cads here, really, just a host of people faced with difficult decisions and different criteria to make them with. The final election scene, which we don’t even see, but rather await the results of with Cotillard, is more breathlessly gripping than Marvel’s entire slate combine this year.
Cotillard’s husband is a goddam saint. It’s not that people like him don’t exist, but she’s damn lucky to have found one, because he’s superhumanly patient with her, even when she kind of treats him like shit. This is still within the bounds of reality, as is the big third act decision she makes, but that plays like an uncharacteristic dip into melodrama for the Dardennes, and the almost comically fast way they shake it off begs the question why it happens at all.
She might be a terminator.
The premise makes for spectacular drama, but stretches credibility just a tad. This is an easy lawsuit, right? As such, it inhabits the film’s value as a larger economic message. Times are hard and the middle class is slowly eroding back into poverty, but for most of us out there, that’s no revelation.
Two Days, One Night delivers some impressive sleight of hand by turning Marion Cotillard into a woman you might pass in the street without noticing. In the process she delivers one of her finest performances ever.