La Vie en Rose
ated PG-13; Directed by Olivier Dahan; Starring Marion Cotillard, Jean-Pierre Martins Gérard Depardieu
If someone asked me to name a French singer there would be only one name to come to mind: Piaf. So it is no surprise that she earns a classy film biography in La Vie en Rose. This French film attempts to show us the life of Edith Piaf.. The filmmakers, trying to show the not always pleasant life of Piaf, may not have made the greatest film biography, but they did manage to give us the wonderful Marion Cotillard as Piaf.
Cotillard’s performance has earned her a Golden Globe, plus an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. It is an amazing performance that spans Piaf’s life as a young woman singing on the streets of Paris to the final years of a woman whose body is bent and broken. Writer-Director Olivier Dahan covers a lot of ground in this film and he is fortunate that he has Cotillard to help us along.
Piaf’s life had lots of drama, full of tragedy with moments of happiness. Her life also had lots of music. This is where the movie excels, showing us the young Piaf learning to charm her audience, and also showing us the older Piaf, the consummate performer who lives to perform. There is a lot to cover in this biography. The movie floats through Piaf’s life, showing her as a child, growing up in a brothel that her grandmother operates. Piaf, daughter of a circus performer and a singer, starts her career as a street singer, eventually earning the chance to sing in a small club run by Louis Leplée (Gerard Depardieu). There she learns her trade, eventually becoming the hit of Paris and then the world.
The plot does not stick to the traditional timeline of “this happened, and then that happened, and then the next thing happened….” Instead, it pops us around in her life. With fame coming to Piaf at an early age this may have made sense, but it ends up as a distraction. One of Piaf’s early tragedies is only shown late in the film weakening its impact. The movie does show Piaf’s tragic love life and her struggles with alcohol and drugs. It also shows Piaf’s strength of personality, which Cotillard portrays so well. For all the limitations with the plot, it is worth seeing Cotillard give her amazing performance. She shines as the young, rebellious singer. Watching Piaf mature, fall in love, face pain and aging, Cotillard fills the screen, just as Piaf might have done. It’s a remarkable performance.
La Vie en Rose offers audiences a new chance to appreciate Piaf’s singing. The music is wonderful, and whatever weaknesses in the script it, the film makes up for it with Marion Cotillard’s performance.