A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be clamoring to see this subtitled biopic about French singer Edith Piaf. Which may be just as well, since her life was difficult, and the movie doesn't skimp on the details of her powerful alcohol and drug addictions. Young teens might need guidance understanding why she's so dependent. Older teens may be able to handle these themes (though there are explicit scenes of intravenous use), but they could still be confounded by both how Piaf was abandoned and mistreated by her parents, relatives, and friends. Though there's a sense that Edith triumphed over adversity, the relentless tragedies may be overwhelming. Expect some swearing and sex (Piaf grows up among prostitutes).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Set in a gritty early 20th-century Paris, the biopic LA VIE EN ROSE delves into the life of Edith Piaf, the 1930s French chanteuse whose stirring songs of love's joys and sorrows made her a household name. Piaf endured a punishingly painful life -- abandoned by her mother, neglected by a circus-performer father, raised partly by prostitutes, used by boyfriends, discovered by a nightclub owner (Gérard Depardieu) who then is killed, heartbroken by the death of a child, hobbled by a morphine addiction, dead at 47 -- the tiny Piaf (aka "the Little Sparrow") had little to celebrate except for her enormous, wondrous voice. So when the chance for true happiness with boxer Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins) -- is dashed forever, it's nothing short of devastating. And then, of course, there's her music, which aptly takes center stage. "Non, je ne regrette rien," she sings ("I regret nothing"), and how noble, how sad those words seem.
Is it any good?
Writer/director Olivier Dahan's biopic is beautifully filmed and grippingly told. As played by Marion Cotillard (in an Oscar-winning performance), Piaf is complicated and compelling, the stuff of legend. But although it's impressive, the film fails to bring viewers close enough to its subject. Bounding from one moment to the next, from present to past to present once more, it reveals but doesn't illuminate.
Whether Piaf herself was that impenetrable or the film just isn't long enough (even though it's over two hours), something doesn't quite click. What's shown on screen leaves viewers feeling removed -- knowing much about Piaf but not knowing her at all. We see what she does, but we don't quite understand why (although we have our guesses). It makes for a slightly frustrating cinematic experience. Which isn't to say that you won't be moved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Piaf's addictions. Why do you think she turned to alcohol and drugs? Did she have any other way to cope with her troubles? What about her singing? How did the media portray her rise and fall? Was Piaf beloved by her fans, warts and all? If she had become famous today, how would the media cover her addictions? Would they harm or help her celebrity?
- In theaters: June 8, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: November 13, 2007
- Cast: Gerard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Martins, Marion Cotillard
- Director: Olivier Dahan
- Studio: Legende Films
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 140 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: substance abuse, sexual content, brief nudity, language and thematic elements.
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