La Vie en Rose is a 2007 French biopic about the singer Edith Piaf who rose from a street urchin early in the twentieth century to become one of France’s most renowned singers by the mid point of the century. The film charts her battles against stage fright, mafia control, arthritis, morphine addiction and snobbery as she slowly rises to prominence.
I have to admit that I didn’t like the film. I thought it was muddled, over-long and confusing but in amongst the mess was one of the best acting performances I’ve seen in a long time. Marion Cotillard delivers a spell binding performance as the troubled singer and deserves a much better vehicle for her talents. She transforms effortlessly from the young waif to her height in the fifties and on to the broken woman of 1960. Without her stunning performance the film wouldn’t be worth watching, because of it, it is a must see.
One of the problems with the film is that because of the non linear narrative structure I never felt as though I got to know the woman. All I could really tell you is that she had a troubled childhood, drank a lot and wasn’t very friendly. The film goes back and forth with characters coming and going. I kept turning to my girlfriend (who had seen the film before) to ask her who someone was and it was infuriating. I was never able to keep up with who was who or where Piaf was. A further problem was that I didn’t have much interest in her life. I understand this is more my problem than a problem with the film but I had no interest in Howard Hughes until I saw The Aviator. After seeing that film I wanted to find out more about the man as it had wet my apatite. Whether it is that Piaf’s life wasn’t interesting enough, the events didn’t grab me or I just wasn’t involved, it didn’t matter. I just felt really bored.
On the plus side as well as Cotillard’s incredible performance the makeup was also excellent. It transformed Cotillard’s normally picturesque face into something quite different and since looking up Piaf I can tell you that it is an accurate reflection of her appearance. The set design was also great and I enjoyed some of the music too. Overall though I found the film far too long and was unable to get on board with the character. If not for the strong central performance I wouldn’t be able to recommend the film but because of it I do. My girlfriend absolutely loved it so maybe I'm totally wrong.