Review: La Vie en Rose (2007)

La Vie en Rose

La Vie en Rose

Rating



Director

Olivier Dahan

Screenplay

Olivier Dahan, Isabelle Sobelman

Length

140 min.

Starring

Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Emmanuelle Seigner, Jean-Paul Rouve, Grard Depardieu, Clotilde Courau, Jean-Pierre Martins, Catherine Allgret, Marc Barb

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (for substance abuse, sexual content, brief nudity, language and thematic elements)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

A passionate look into the colorful history of a larger-than-life chanteuse, La Vie en Rose tells the life story of legendary French songstress Edith Piaf and how her youth influenced her reckless adulthood and how it all led to her place as one of France’s most enduring symbols.

The film stars Marion Cotillard who, as the “Little Sparrow”, delivers a vigorous performance. It’s her performance that gives the film life, joy and sorrow. From her humble beginnings as an impoverished youth, living on the streets or in a brothel, Edith Piaf had the kind of bold life story that begged to be told. It’s a story filled with outlandish events that helped define her long-standing and memorable character.

Even the greatest screenwriters in film history couldn’t have imagined such unusual occurrences. For a period Edith was blind and cured by a religious pilgrimage. She was well cared for by a group of prostitutes in a Normandy whorehouse. Her husband perished in a plane crash, leaving her along even with dozens of friends who cherished her.

And, despite everything that happened in her depressing past, Edith Piaf persevered and challenged traditions while carving out a niche as one of history’s most indelible personalities. It’s within the frames of this film that the audience witnesses a legend being born.

The film owes a tremendous amount of its success to Cotillard’s amazing performance. From the minute she appears on screen until the final act, her charisma envelops you in the story, even if the story itself unevenly unfolds.

Director Olivier Dahan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Isabelle Sobelman, attempts to draw parallels in Edith’s later life with those in her early life all the while providing confusing narrative jumps between the middle of her life to the end of her life. If not for Cotillard’s distinct and well-mannered transformation, it would be difficult to see the film as a semi-linear whole. It’s her ability to show the various stages of Edith’s life that renders much of the confusing narrative structure understandable.

Other fine performances emerge in the film including Sylvie Testud as Edith’s young adult friend Mômone and Seigner’s conscientious whore Titine. While the masculine side of the cast is suitable, it’s the women that really give the film its depth and credibility.

One of the film’s saving graces is the music of Piaf used whole or re-recorded to mold and propel the story. Although Cotillard never sings a word, her lip-syncing is perfect and it’s easy to believe that she is doing all of the singing.

While the entire film feels disjointed thanks to Dahan’s bouncy direction, there is one scene he gets entire right. Without giving away any details, his handling of the song “non, je ne regrette rien” and the associated scenes is the most beautiful, poignant and emotional in the entire film and one of the most memorable uses of music in recent memory.

La Vie en Rose is filmed entirely in French, so the subtitles might scare away most fans of the biopic, but giving the film a gander, even if it is just to see Cotillard’s fantastic performance and to listen to the gorgeous music, should be rewarding enough for most audiences.

Review Written

May 7, 2008

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