(plot summary from imdb.com, partially modified to remove some spoilers:)
"La Vie En Rose is an un-chronological look at the life of the Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf (1915-1963). Her mother is an alcoholic street singer, her father a circus performer, her paternal grandmother a madam. During childhood she lives with each of them. At 20, she's a street singer discovered by a club owner, coached by a musician who brings her to concert halls, and then quickly famous. Constant companions are alcohol and heartache."And that basically says judiciously what I was going to say, which is "this movie was so difficult to get through because it's about what a hard life she had, but I couldn't find her sympathetic, and when this drags on for 2+ hours, I could describe the experience as painful."
On a lighter note, the movie definitely deserved its two Academy Awards (Best Achievement in Makeup, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role). Asides from that... yeah, it was pretty painful. I think that I'm liking French cinema less and less and the German and Italian more and more. Hopefully I'll run into a "French redemption film" soon.