La Vie En Rose

How apropos that "tour de force" is a French term.

This messy showcase exists mostly to show off the fearless performance of Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf ("The Little Sparrow"), who was the French Judy Garland, a tiny little singer (4'8") complete with irresponsible parents, an enormous talent and a huge voice. In addition, you will have to endure hop-scotching through an out-of-control private life replete with drug and alcohol problems, an artistic temperament, a messy love life and numerous personal tragedies.

Given the undeniable skills of Ms. Cotillard, who assumes the character of Piaf from about age 13 and carries the role convincingly to the bitter end at a prematurely feeble and astonishingly fragile age 47, this should have been a much better movie. The way the actress modifies her physical carriage to reflect various stages of osteoporosis, arthritis, and simple aging, is notable!

The actor who plays Marcel Cerdan (the middleweight boxing champion - and pig farmer - who was the love of her life), is a devastatingly hand- some and rugged individual (Jean-Pierre Martins), who convinced ME that he could box. In fact I could even forgive him for being married, just like Piaf did!

Gerard Depardieu is the owner of a popular nightclub who discovers her singing on the street for coins and launches her professional career. He seemed to have mob ties and I think he was murdered. There was a spot toward the end of the first third where she was accused of being involved in his death, but that story line seemed to fizzle.

The biggest problem is the way the film jumps from deathbed to infancy to deathbed, then to adolescence, then stardom, then middle age, back to childhood and thence to feeble old age. Using that device repeatedly was totally uncalled for and distracting. They even tossed in the death from meningitis of her toddler son, of whom we hadn't had a hint up until a few moments before the end of the movie! Many of the elements in the movie are based on artistic license, nothing more, and again, are unnecessary; her life was melodramatic enough without taking liberties with the truth. Aarghhh!

This film was much praised and highly honored, as was Ms. Cotillard (Academy Award), so if you are in the mood for a tour de force, be my guest, s'il vous plait.