Songstresses on the big screen: Edith, Janis and … Bob?

On Sunday, The New York Times featured an article titled "Glorious Dissolution: Musicians on Film." It considers some forthcoming music biopics, whose subjects include Edith Piaf and Janis Joplin. The Piaf pic, La Vie en Rose (opening Friday in limited release) compares Piaf to her "spiritual double," Billie Holiday. I’ve never quite made that connection, but it’s a fascinating one.

Director Olivier Dahan notes that Piaf and Holiday endured a fragility that was both boon and bane:

“I don’t believe that to be a great artist you have to be tormented,” Mr. Dahan said. But, he added, the very qualities that help musicians as artists may also render them vulnerable.

“Maybe there is something about being fragile,” he said. “And to be fragile is to also be very receptive. You can’t be a great artist and not be fragile, so when you are fragile everything kind of hits you, the good and the bad for sure.”

That rings true, even if it does also make me frown. It’s no fun when you know the person’s going to self-destruct at the end. But thanks to some of the weird casting choices for upcoming biopics, the self-destruction is the least of my worries:


Zooey Deschanel as Janis Joplin — I like Zooey, but I just can’t see this working.
But I’m sure I’ll see it anyway.


Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylanyeesh. I’m speechless. As Amy Winehouse might say, what kind of f—ery is this? Blanchett is playing Dylan in the Todd Haynes film I’m Not There,
and I’m so not there either.


Kirsten Dunst as Debbie Harry — we lamented this recently, but I’m less bothered by it now that I’ve seen Debbie Harry make a mockery of herself on the Today show. It was a nightmare.

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