La Vie en Rose Made in: France, UK, Czech Republic Language: French, English Director: Olivier Dahan Starring: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Gérard Depardieu, Marc Barbé Year: 2007
Synopsis: This is a biopic of the legendary singer, Edith Piaf (played by Marion Cotillard). Structurally, the film jumps from time period to time period in telling an emotional story of her life. The narrative covers Edith's broken childhood, and her early years growing up in a brothel while enduring serious health problems.
We then see Edith discover her own singing talent at around the age of ten, and later we follow her through still more difficult years as a young woman. She sings on street corners for change, and gets tangled up with a host of unseemly personalities.
Eventually, she is discovered by a club owner named Pere Leplee (Gérard Depardieu) where she sings at an establishment that is somewhere between halfway-decent and seedy. It is there that Edith earns the stage moniker "Piaf" (which means sparrow).
Without giving too much away, La Vie en Rose chronicles the tragedies and successes that befall Edith, and how her inimitable character was as much a part of her life as her unforgettable voice.
The Good: Even though I don't know too much about Edith Piaf, I think that Marion Cotillard did a superb job playing her. I can't comment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but I can say that Cotillard certainly brought a lot of life, complexity, and dynamism to the role. Like the famous Spanish actress Carmen Maura, Marion Cotillard does an amazing job using her eyes as a way of capturing the essence of a troubled character.
Director Olivier Dahan makes an unconventional move by telling the story in nonlinear fragments. All the pieces work together in the end to create a bigger emotional impact. Some of the transitions between scenes/time periods are very clever. Especially well-done is a scene that transitions from an anguished Edith running through her luxurious hotel room right to a packed music hall during one of her performances. If you've seen this film, you'll know which shot I'm talking about!
In addition to a strong cast and wonderful cinematography, La Vie en Rose snagged Academy Awards for Best Make-up and Best Leading Actress. I'm not sure which other films were in the running that year for Best Make-up, but I must say that the process of aging Marion Cotillard was very convincing (especially with all those close-ups).
The Bad: Even though the unconventional linearity worked overall, it was sometimes easy to lose track of all the different peripheral characters. And all in all, when you put it together, the rags-to-riches saga of Edith Piaf's life is very similar to other rise-and-fall-and-redemption biopics of famous figures.
A cynic might say that the major elements of Edith's story (talent amidst a turbulent life full of wild partying, boozing, and occasional tantrums) isn't too different from what one would see on any episode of VH-1's Behind the Music.
Also, not much is said about Edith Piaf's film career.
Who would like this movie: You'll enjoy La Vie en Rose if you like foreign films, and especially if you're a fan of Edith Piaf's music. You'll hear many of her famous numbers, and even though I'm by no means an expert with any of them, each song seems to be carefully considered during their respective scenes.
Although the flow of events isn't anything most seasoned film-goers have haven't already seen, the presentation is strong and it has some real emotion.