Jan 2008 07

This musical biopic does nothing terribly new for the genre, and at times is very stereotypical, contains a very good performance by Marion Cotillard as the lead Edith Paif, but the film is ultimately hampered by the fact that Piaf, even if she was an amazing singer, is an extremely unlikable person and very hard to care about.
The film opens with Piaf collapsing on stage in a New York performance in 1958, we then jump back in time, in the first of many very unstructured leaps in time, to 1918 to find Edith in the streets watching her mother beautifully sing for money on a street corner. After her father reclaims her after the war he puts her in the custody of a whore house while he returns to the lines. The women raise her affectionately with one, Titine, becoming a mother figure in her life. After a freak sickness Edith is again reunited with her father where she soon discovers her singing talents of her own.
From here she slowly moves through the ranks of street performer to stage star while inter-cutting with the later years of her life with no definitive sequence to be found in these flash forwards as the scenes feel almost randomly inserted at times.
Cotillard plays Piaf very well sometimes, while occasionally coming off as severely overacting the part. I do not know Piaf’s life, but the film represents her as a troubled, drunk, loud-mouth, drug-using, diva that seems to be almost insufferable to be around. This is where the movies biggest issue lies in that we are supposed to feel sympathetic for this woman when here only rewarding quality we are shown is her voice. Sure there is the troubled and rough childhood, but when inter cut with the previously described version of her crotchety older self it is hard to sympathize with someone when we know what they become.
It’s also just baffling and hard to buy into all these lapdogs she has following her around that she treats like dirt most of the film as she gets drunk and messed up drugs talking down on anyone around here. We see glimpses of a fun good hearted woman, but the film painters much more towards the hysterical, irrational, and negative end.
The most likeable side of Piaf comes out in her relationship with Marcel Cerdan, played very well by Jean-Pierre Martins, a world champion boxer that is having an affair with Piaf when ever he is in America. She was dearly in love with him and a scene revolving around the fate of their relationship is shot in a fantastic one take that is rather impressive. Though, this relationship shines her in a dark light as well as she is cheating with him and wish for him to leave his wife in children for her showing a selfish side to her that is not afraid to come out throughout her life.
Overall, the film moves along well, and is entertaining as the story is interesting at times. Piaf’s voice is wonderful to listen to, but her character is hard to swallow and sympathize with. If Piaf was this obnoxious and unlikable at times, then Cotillard deserves her accolades, because she nails it to a T. Though be advised to check this one out if you don’t think you can look past the self-centered brat that Piaf can be or if your bored with the music biopic.


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