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La Vie En Rose

La Vie En Rose

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

MARION Cotillard delivers a stunning performance as legendary singer Edith Piaf in Olivier Dahan’s absorbing biopic – but it’s a performance that’s not always matched by the film itself.

By adopting a non-linear approach to the subject matter, Dahan avoids becoming episodic but also renders La Vie En Rose slightly confusing for anyone who doesn’t already have a firm grasp of Piaf’s life story.

He also misses out key parts of her life story, which may come as a disappointment for anyone looking for a definitive chronicle.

That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. For La Vie En Rose should keep viewers enthralled in spite of its lengthy running time thanks to Cotillard’s brilliance and some engaging visual artistry.

The film essentially charts Piaf’s rise from the slums of Paris to the limelight of New York, taking in her passionate romances and friendships with the greatest names of the period.

But in rising to superstardom, The Little Sparrow – as she became nicknamed – contributed to her own tragic end and her last days were filled with suffering and regret.

Cotillard works overtime to capture the essence of the singer during the various stages of her life – flitting from lusty and arrogant to vulnerable and sympathetic – and should be recognised with an Oscar nomination at the very least come the next awards season. It’s truly a warts and all performance.

But her brilliance cannot mask some of the film’s more obvious failings, given its non-linear approach.

The timeline of her life feels confused and requires a lot of hard work from the audience, while certain key moments (such as her relationship with actor Yves Montand and her involvement with the French Resistance) aren’t even mentioned.

What is included is mostly well chronicled and extremely well played, including – most notably – her career defining relationship with Louis Leplée (played with relish by Gérard Depardieu) and her great passion for ill-fated boxing champ Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins).

The musical numbers, too, are presented with great verve and succeed in capturing the spirit of Piaf’s live shows – even taking on a heartbreaking quality as she struggles to overcome illness to please her fans.

But the overall impression is one of admiration tinged with regret – Cotillard deserves every plaudit going for her incredible performance but Dahan could have made things a lot easier for his viewers.

The result is as brilliant and troubled as Piaf’s life – but then maybe that’s the point…

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 20mins