Movie Review: La Vie en Rose, Director Olivier Dahan, 2007
La Vie en Rose tells the story of the life of Edith Piaf, born in 1915 into a life of poverty and raised for a portion of her life in a brothel. As a child, she joined her father’s street performance act, and began singing at an early age. Eventually she was discovered and began the rocky and personally tragic road to fame as one of France’s most famous singers.
I’ve heard a few of Edith Piaf’s songs, but knew nothing of her life prior to the movie. I can’t say I know much more of her life after the movie. One issue with La Vie en Rose is the method in which her life story is revealed. The movie switches constantly between her youth, which appears to move chronologically, and short excerpts of her at fame and at the decline of the career. These do not appear to be presented chronologically, which causes great confusion. Did this happen before that? The moments we see of her in a sort of nursing home setting, do those happen before her collapse on the stage or after? Did she have multiple concerts where she collapsed on the stage?
People appear in the movie at seemingly random moments, presented as though we are supposed to know who they are and their significance. I’d latch onto a character, remember his name, only to have him disappear forever after a few scenes. Suddenly another man would appear, and I’d wonder if this was the childhood friend grown up? Or perhaps the delivery boy briefly introduced twenty minutes before that I assumed was an extra? Add this problem in character significance to the inexplicable timeline and I was lost.
The most frustrating part of the movie was in the very end, when Edith is on her death bed. The movie cuts to at least four flashbacks of different parts of her life. Again I struggled to figure out what happened when. Suddenly, with no foreshadowing whatsoever, we discover that Edith had born a daughter in her youth, a child she struggled to care for as she continued her career as a street performer, a child who died young of meningitis. This revelation came like a lightning bolt in the last ten minutes of the movie. I was outraged that such a significant portion of her life was slapped onto the end, like a minor afterthought in her life. I can’t believe, given her own difficult childhood and equally difficult relationship with her mother, that her own struggles at motherhood and the death of her daughter were nothing more than a blip in her life.
Disappointing, disjointed. Edith Piaf deserves better.