"The Troubled Sparrow"
LA VIE EN ROSE is a beautifully realized but somewhat choppy and episodic portrait of the famous French pop singer, Edith Piaf, whose haunting renditions of moody French songs became an international sensation. Marion Cotillard gives a mesmerizing performance as Piaf, who suffered problems with alcoholism, morphine addiction and a tragic love affair with a married man. The movie takes Piaf from her birth just before World War I to her death in 1963, so the movie’s episodic quality is somewhat unavoidable. Making the movie seem more episodic and choppy, however, is the fact that the story goes back and forth in time and that the movie has a weak or mixed premise.
The actual story begins with Edith’s father, a seedy circus performer who’s serving in the army, taking Edith away from her alcoholic mother and leaving Edith with her grandmother, who runs a house of prostitution. As a little girl, Edith suffers a case of blindness, but prayers to Jesus and Saint Therese cure her of the disease. Although she still relies on Jesus and the saint in times of stress, Edith becomes a young alcoholic street singer who begs coins during the day to barely eke by a living while she visits seedy cafes at night.
A music impresario discovers her singing on the street and immediately features her at his own café. He dubs her Piaf, “the little sparrow,” but scandal interrupts Edith’s rise to fame when the man is murdered. Eventually, after another slide into alcoholism, Edith recovers and becomes a world-renowned singer. After World War II, she attracts the attentions of a famous French boxer, who, however, is married. His tragic death in the early 1950s devastates Edith, who once again succumbs to alcohol and, worse, morphine addiction.
Interspersed within this brief biography are scenes of Edith in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the singer battles both her addictions and her failing health. Through it all, however, her voice remains usually, but not always, strong until, in the last year of her life, she must give up performing. In the end, her final international hit is a melancholy French song about having “no regrets.”
Edith’s Christian faith helps her at crucial moments of her life, but the movie also shows that Edith loved to drink alcohol and party, the ultimate cause of her death, and that the greatest romance of her life was with a married man. Furthermore, the refrain at the end is that, despite her bedridden frailty, the woman still had no regrets for the careless way she lived her life at times.
Thus, ultimately, LA VIE EN ROSE is a tragedy. It shows that, although her family left much to be desired, Edith did not treat her singing as a wonderful gift from God, a gift that demands nurturing and responsibility. As Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Because of the movie’s negative elements, including adultery, and mixed worldview, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution. In some ways, Edith Piaf turned out to be her own worst enemy, but there were no people in her life who could really show her how to follow Jesus Christ better.
(PaPa, CC, FR, B, LL, V, SS, NN, AAA, DD, M) Strong mixed worldview with pagan content and some positive prayers to Jesus Christ and a female saint from the Catholic protagonist who has trouble with alcohol, morphine and an illicit love affair; 23 obscenities; some boxing violence and some street fighting, plus drunken driver riding with some friends hits an obstacle on a desert road, implied murder and implied suicide attempt; strong sexual content including implied prostitution when a child is raised in a brothel, implied fornication and adultery; slightly obscured brief upper female nudity in background of one scene and upper male nudity; alcohol use and abuse and protagonist succumbs to her alcoholism at times; smoking and implied morphine use and some kind of stimulating medical drugs administered; and, lying and girl has unstable parents, but one of her fondest memories at the end of her life is receiving a doll she wanted from her poverty stricken father.
LA VIE EN ROSE is a beautifully realized but somewhat choppy and episodic portrait of the famous French pop singer, Edith Piaf, whose haunting renditions of moody French songs became an international sensation. The movie travels back and forth in time to show Edith's beginnings of being raised in her grandmother's brothel during World War I to singing on the streets of Paris to a topsy turvy musical career involving great success as well as scandal. There is also an illicit affair with a married man, alcohol and morphine addiction, and an early death.
The episodic nature of the movie's narrative and mixed premise give LA VIE EN ROSE a choppy quality. Although Edith relies on prayer to Jesus Christ and Saint Therese in times of stress, this famous French Catholic celebrity is her own worst enemy. Even so, her trials and tribulations add a depth of longing and pain to her songs, a depth that is still greatly admired today. The movie's negative elements, including adultery, and mixed worldview require extreme caution. Marion Cotillard is brilliant, however, as the diminutive "little sparrow," the meaning of her stage name, Piaf.