In the past few years there have been a few performances that were so astounding that they reinvent the way we watch an actor. Last year, Helen Mirren did this with her role as Queen Elizabeth. This year, Marion Cotillard has shaken the world of acting with her unbelievable role as the great Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose.” She will be nominated for a best actress Oscar, and she could most likely take the prize.
The film is the story of Edith Piaf, one of the greatest voices out of France during the 20th Century. Piaf led a very extraordinary yet often sad life. After being pulled away from her homeless mother she is brought to a bordello. In that unconventional environment, she learns love from one of the girls named Titine (Emmanuelle Seigner). Titine shows her love through singing and fun, something that little Edith never had with her mother.
Her father soon takes her away to the circus life. Unfortunately the both of them find themselves on the street, where Edith shows her first interest in singing. At this point the film goes into Edith’s astonishing life as portrayed by Marion Cotillard.
Watching Cotillard, it is very easy to forget that this is an actress playing a part in a film. Even if one isn’t familiar with Edith Piaf, Cotillard does an amazing job showing you who she was and it would be hard to believe that the famous singer was any different than what we see in this film. Piaf was not the most stoic woman, standing at only four foot ten. Cotillard, who in real life is quite average sized, transforms into this little woman with ease (she also made a real physical transformation by raising her hairline and shaving her eyebrows for the role). She is absolutely one of the best actresses working and will definitely begin to appear in every movie after this.
The movie does have problems with its storytelling technique. It absolutely demands that we already know the story of Edith Piaf before we see it. There are many scenes that are very confusing as to why anything is happening. We see Edith in a hospital bed and are only given small reasons as to why she is ill. She died of cancer, but that knowledge is never shared with us. There is just a lot to be desired of her story, and at a length of two hours and twenty minutes you’d think that we would get the entire story.
Luckily for the film’s sake, Cotillard’s performance is so exciting and grand that is makes up for a lot of the problems. She is just utterly terrific.
Another great part of the film is its music. Cotillard doesn’t do any singing throughout the entire movie. The director (Olivier Dahan) made the decision early on that there could be no replication of the power of Piaf’s voice with his actress so he decided to use original recordings. The result is a powerful collection of classics, obviously remastered, and sounding better than ever. Cotillard is a magnificent lip-syncher, so the director’s efforts do not go to waste (a few of Jamie Foxx’s lip-synching scenes in “Ray” were a bit obvious, whereas Cotillard is flawless).
Without a powerful actress like Marion Cotillard, this film may have gone completely under the wire. She is a very creative and talented performer and infused this film with the kind of electricity that is not often seen in film. While the film is a bit heavy and a little too long, her ability to enchant the viewer takes away any kind of bad criticism. “La Vie En Rose” is a wondrous film that will bring its star a bouquet of awards and years of praise.