"Marion Cotillard [...] portrays Piaf in her 20s as a goofy, over-the-top caricature strongly reminiscent of Nicole Sullivan's "Antonia" character from MadTV."
This is so true. I did not finish watching the movie because I simply could not stand Marion Cotillard's performance. And indeed, I had a feeling like I was looking at a MadTV character. I was interested in learning what Piaf did during the Nazi occupation, but I could not continue this torture (and based on the comments I read, I did not miss much). Why or why did Marion Cotillard get an Oscar?
The only good thing I can say: I liked Naomi Watt's performance; it seemed genuine. Everything else was so fake: fake villains (Russian, Turkish), fake accents, fake story... I mean this was a cartoonish performance. I guess it's what Western people assume Russian gangsters should look like, and the majority of Western viewers will probably buy this crap. Being Russian, I don't. No way. I understand that actors are not Russian, so it's a challenge, but some similar movies (OK, very few movies) manage to address the authenticity part much better (e.g. "Little Odessa" seemed more genuine to me). Viggo Mortensen does not look like Russian. He may be a good actor, but he cannot play a Russian (OK, his Russian is not the worst, but it's far from genuine). BTW, were Mashkov already booked? What about Mironov? Could Cronenberg give Menshikov a call?
Anyway, if you are familiar with Russian culture and value authenticity in movies, you will probably be disappointed; otherwise, give it a try: a lot of people seem to like it.
After watching the first scene, I thought that I would probably not finish the movie, but the longer I watched it, the more I was drawn to the characters and the story. With the exception of continuous repetition of the "F" word, it is very innocent. Music is great (if you like this kind of music). Characters are very real (it's like you watch them living, not acting). Absolutely no clichés. I enjoyed subtleness of the movie and performances of other characters: the Girl's mom, the young guys who come to her flat to watch TV, the guy from the recording studio.
A few scenes almost made me cry: the one when Guy takes Girl for a bike ride and asks if she loves her husband (although, I do not speak Czech, I understood the answer), the other when Girl could't finish the song, and there were more. Very emotional. I'm surprised how much I care about the characters, even though I don't even know their names. After watching the movie for the first time, I replayed a few scenes (the one in which Girl sing "If you want me (satisfy me)" and the first performance in In the recording studio), something I normally do not do.
I suspect that this is not a movie for everyone. If you are more into special effects, typical Hollywood production, action movies, Star Wars, etc, I suspect you will not like it (and I may be wrong here), but if you like real stories, real people, good music, you may enjoy it.
First of all, why would the Mafia give Martin $1 M (or whatever amount it was) in the first place? How did they expect him to pay back $1.5 M? What kind of agreement was it? Yes, I know that if he wouldn't pay they would have to kill him, but how did they expect him to pay? Do they just give away money to every stranger? This would be the stupidest (if there is such word) Mafia in the world. OK, since he didn't pay (anyone surprised?), why didn't they kill him immediately? Why didn't they go after Salva, since he introduced Martin to them? Why did Martin start asking for time extension? Was he really hoping to make this amount of money? Why do all characters behave so irrationally and make the worst possible choices? Why are all rich guys shown as perverts? Why does Salma Hayek behave like a brat in the beginning? I can go on, an on, and on. It just does not make sense. I was so irritated by this movie that I stopped the tape after watching for about an hour. I don't even care about the characters and the rest of the story.
3 out of 10.
I think that the story is interesting. Maybe not very original, but not beaten to death either. When I watched it for the first time, I was mostly interested in what would happen to the characters, after which I concentrated more on details. I think that most actors were very good: it's like you watch people living, not acting. Dialogs were funny, although English translation did not do them justice (on the other hand, certain things you simply cannot translate: they only make sense in the cultural context).
While most characters in the movie are pretty much pathetic (and/or miserable), they are somehow likeable. Even Dima, who seems to never get bothered by any moral imperatives, shows a human side (e.g. when he lets a poor old lady not to pay the full price for whatever she was buying).
I also liked the sound, editing, just about everything that made this film. Unless you are a dedicated soap opera or professional wrestling fan, you may find it a treat, too. 9 out of 10.
P.S. It is surprising, but this movie is not well known in either Russia or Ukraine.