La Vie en Rose (Picturehouse, PG-13)

film_rose_smLa Vie en Rose is a romanticized version of Edith Piaf, from the "humble beginnings" being raised in her grandmother's whorehouse to her wild international success.





It was only a matter of time before Édith Piaf, a national treasure of France, would have her life brought to the screen. Unfortunately, the treatment she's given in La Vie en Rose hardly matches the fascinating life she led. Instead, the film puts Piaf through the movie biopic machine, the same machine that brought us Ray, Walk the Line, and What's Love Got to Do with It, showing us a fractured depiction of her life, non-linearly, from humble beginnings to unheralded fame to the fall of excess. Like any biopic, it's necessary to choose what to include and what not to, and Olivier Dahan has curiously chosen to leave out some of the more interesting details about Piaf's life, especially her involvement in aiding French prisoners of war during WWII. Thus, La Vie en Rose is a romanticized version of Piaf, from the "humble beginnings" being raised in her grandmother's whorehouse to her wild international success.


Like any other biopic of this nature, the film relies, almost solely, on the competence of its actor. Here, Marion Cotillard becomes Édith Piaf to nearly unimaginable accuracy. Her performance is much less of an impersonation than Jamie Foxx's in Ray, but to most Americans not around during Piaf's glory, it wouldn't really matter. With generous aid from the makeup department, Cotillard exudes Piaf's once-youthful rambunctiousness all the way to her early death at age 47, remarkable for an actress of only 31.

Still, La Vie en Rose leaves much to be desired. Dahan directs Cotillard during the performance scenes beautifully, but most of the rest of La Vie en Rose feels like a drag. One thing we do take from the film is Piaf's desire for companionship, her fear of solitude, moving from the prostitute (Emmanuelle Seigner) who acted as mother to her to her best friend and drinking buddy (Sylvie Testud) to the man who discovered her (Gérard Depardieu) to her boxer lover (Jean-Pierre Martins), and so on. Dahan breezes through much of these interactions carelessly, yet oddly enough, at 140 minutes, La Vie en Rose still feels too long. With La Vie en Rose, I can't help but admire Stephen Frears' The Queen even more; if only more filmmakers would feel less inclined to show their subjects from birth to death, I may not have to dread the biopic as much as I do now. Oh, and just when you think you'll be blessed with a biopic sans "rise to fame" montage, Dahan grudgingly meets your cynical expectations. | Joe Bowman

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