Who's in It:
Marion Cotillard, Pascal Greggory, Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Martins
The Basics: Edith Piaf was the Judy Garland of France. Her life was one crazy drama-queen tragedy after another, and she died young. This structurally not-so-interesting biopic gets its game raised on sheer freaky life facts alone: She was raised in a brothel, temporarily blinded as a child, sang for pennies in the streets, experienced sudden fame, drunkness, car crashes, bad love affairs, morphine, cancer and fell in love with a boxer/pig farmer. That's a lot to pack in.
What's the Deal? I know a lot of people hate biopics because there's hardly any not-done-to-death ways to make them. But when they're about exceptionally entertaining train-wreck-ish human oddities like this, then that sort of doesn't matter. You forgive it for lacking originality because you're getting to watch the biopic-ed person's accumulated looniness. Or, better yet, you're getting to see an actor really get down and dirty like Cotillard does here. If I cared about Oscars, I'd say give her one. But I don't, so someone else will have to campaign for her.
Made-Up Stuff: The part about the whore with a heart of gold who takes little Edith under her wing in the brothel. Apparently that never happened.
Other Possibly Made-Up Stuff: Everything. Some of it is, of course, documented fact. But Piaf herself was kind of overly dramatic and fictional with details of her own life, so sometimes it's hard to say what happened, what sort of happened and what is a pack of les untruths. But it doesn't matter. You want all of this stuff to be true, so the movie makes it so.
True Story: I used to work part time in this junk shop owned by a woman who listened exclusively to Piaf while we were in the store. So, for like six hours at a clip, I'd hear nothing but what sounded like a woman sobbing in French over music. I got so sick of her I was content to never hear her again. That's how good this movie is: I was able to watch it without trying to yank my ears off my head.