Sunday, February 7, 2010

La Vie En Rose (2007)

So being raised by hookers isn't all it's cracked up to be.

It feels like the cinema for the last ten years has been totally dominated by the biopic. You would think that they would run out of people to make movies about, but there seems to be an unending supply of quasi famous people with interesting lives out there. I don't really know anything about Edith Piaf, I wasn't even sure who she was, but La Vie En Rose does a pretty good job of being interesting even for viewers who have no vested emotions in the women or her music. Her story makes for a very interesting film, further enhanced by some very solid film-making and a home-run performance by Marion Cotillard, even if the movie ultimately suffers from a lack of narrative focus.

As I mentioned before, La Vie En Rose is the story of Edith Piaf. So you don't have the same issue I had, Piaf is probably the most famous popular singer in French history and a cultural icon. To make a long story short, she's a big deal. The film follows her life, the tragedies and the successes, from birth to death. A lot happens and I was constantly surprised at how fascinating her life story is. The real reason to see the movie though is for Marion Cotillard's performance as Edith Piaf. It won her an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she fully deserved, and the film also won an Oscar for make-up. There's just so much going right for La Vie En Rose that it's easy to overlook the films faults.

Whenever someone talks about La Vie En Rose, the first thing out of their mouth is probably praise for Cotillard. She deserves every ounce of it, so I'll let people who are better spoken than I continue to praise her while I talk about something else. There is so much interesting material here that it's hard not to be captured by the film. I usually find biopics a little on the boring side because I'm not a big fan of simple, "what happens next in life" drama. Most biopics fall into this category, but I think Piaf's bizarre life, coupled with a complete lack of information on my part, kept the movie interesting even though the format doesn't totally appeal to me. My only minor complaint with the movie is that it tries to show too much. A person's life, even a boring life, would be impossible to show in two hours and that's what they tried to do with La Vie En Rose. The film needed to focus down, and cut some sections to improve the pace and to reduce character confusion. There were a lot of characters in the movie that bled together for me making it really hard to follow some of the conflicts that were occurring. This obviously would be a huge task because everything in the movie was interesting and well crafted, but being able to part with something good to make everything else better is what separates good films from great films.

Ultimately I found myself surprisingly drawn to La Vie En Rose and that's what impressed me most. Whether it was the electric performance by Cotillard, or just the sometimes unbelievable story of Piaf's life, I found the movie fascinating. It's really an impressive achievement that, despite the film's faults, you find yourself engrossed in the movie. It might not be the best biopic ever made, but it's certainly a worthy addition to the ranks.


1 comment:

The Mad Hatter said...

The scene that I always come back to when I think of this film is her first big performance in front of a proper audience, where the score sweeps in and doesn't allow us to absorb her singing in the traditional way.

In a way, I wish they'd returned to this device a few more times...but I really love this film so it's a minor complaint.

Great post!