Metascore
58

Mixed or average reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Sep 1, 2011
    80
    Unconventional, imaginative, nothing if not audacious, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a portrait of creativity from the inside, a serious yet playful attempt to find an artistic way to tell an emotional truth.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Dec 9, 2011
    75
    It's a comedic dramatization with a looming shadow of the surreal.
  3. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Nov 10, 2011
    75
    In short, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is a charmer.
  4. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Oct 26, 2011
    75
    The movie unreels his musical biography with an unending series of tastes of songs and performances. You may be surprised by how many you recognize.
  5. Reviewed by: V.A. Musetto
    Aug 31, 2011
    75
    While an iconic figure in France, Gainsbourg isn't a household name here in the States. But that shouldn't stop audiences from enjoying Sfar's good-looking, fanciful film.
  6. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Sep 5, 2011
    70
    The result is a lively bout between bio-pic and fairy tale.
  7. Reviewed by: Jordan Mintzer
    Aug 28, 2011
    70
    Both evocative and faithful in its depiction of the famed French singer's lascivious life, "Gainsbourg (vie heroique)" offers up a feast of memorable chansons and an almost endless parade of drop-dead-gorgeous muses.
  8. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Sep 10, 2011
    67
    It's never more than an intro to a man who merits volumes.
  9. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Aug 31, 2011
    67
    At once overly episodic and playfully arty, like a TV movie made by Fellini.
  10. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Sep 1, 2011
    65
    A few shots of full frontal and an actual devil to point to are poor substitutes for exposure and depth of character.
  11. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Oct 27, 2011
    63
    Inventive and enjoyable but ultimately shallow.
  12. 63
    It's no fun looking after a determined, self-justified alcoholic; or even watching him waste away. Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life accepts its subject on his own terms. And the compromise feels like capitulation before its hero's last record spins to a close. The death of a ladies man is pretty grim sport after the ladies have gone.
  13. Reviewed by: Bill Weber
    Aug 27, 2011
    63
    Handsomely mounted and shot with an eye for nocturnal Parisian mystery by Guillaume Schiffman, Gainsbourg somewhat mercifully peters out after the grande scandale of the provocateur's reggae version of "La Marseillaise," which earned him the wrath of French patriots.
  14. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Sep 2, 2011
    60
    What the movie lacks in depth it makes up for in surreal humor, and - just as he should - Gainsbourg look-alike Elmosnino seduces us effortlessly.
  15. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Sep 1, 2011
    60
    What may feel like Mr. Sfar's indulgences are sometimes just that, but one could hardly make an honest movie about Gainsbourg that wasn't as recklessly ambitious as this.
  16. Reviewed by: Andrew Male
    Aug 28, 2011
    60
    Eric Elmosnino is terrific as the louche French icon in Joann Sfar's vivid biopic. Shame about that second hour.
  17. Reviewed by: Wade Major
    Aug 28, 2011
    60
    Despite its ultimate lack of profundity, Gainsbourg is certain to still be a sufficiently engaging and meaningful experience to enthrall the initiated while stimulating the curiosity of the uninitiated.
  18. Reviewed by: Ian Buckwalter
    Sep 2, 2011
    58
    Sfar's imaginative direction and the film's lush visual sense, along with a hugely charismatic performance by Eric Elmosnino in the title role, do manage to elevate much of the formula elements.
  19. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Aug 30, 2011
    58
    What's surprising, and ultimately disappointing, about Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is the degree to which Sfar allows biopic obligations to smother his more whimsical instincts.
  20. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Nov 3, 2011
    50
    An excellently cast biopic about yet another self-destructive genius who burnt out but will never fade away – at least not in France, or wherever cigarettes, alcohol, and sex are still allowed.
  21. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Oct 27, 2011
    50
    Alas, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life loses steam and grows more perfunctory as it wears on.
  22. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Aug 30, 2011
    50
    The movie turns terminally wearisome and even anti-climactic with the triumph of the brain-lodging "Je T'aime" (which, alone among the movie's numbers, is heard in its original version) and Gainsbourg's descent into alcoholic dissolution.
  23. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 30, 2011
    50
    The puppets and the music make Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life engaging, but it is also visually hectic and lacks either the dramatic intensity or the arresting insight that might have lifted it out of the pedestrian realm of the admiring biopic.
  24. Reviewed by: Bernard Besserglik
    Aug 28, 2011
    50
    The movie is too much an act of hero-worship for there to be any critical distance.
  25. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Sep 2, 2011
    42
    His rise from a marginalized Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Paris to his chain-smoking fame as the composer of such Euro-hits as "Je t'Aime … Moi Non Plus" is presented as one long, hallucinatory jag, revealing far less about Gainsbourg, I would imagine, than about Sfar.
  26. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Aug 30, 2011
    40
    Despite the attention the film pays to the divide between the man as the ungainly, loving second-gen immigrant versus the boozy provocateur, it's not a portrait of much psychological depth.
User Score
6.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Lyn
    Jun 6, 2014
    8
    An extra point for the storytelling in this film, which is consistently entertaining and inventive. In Gainsbourg's day -- before the briefestAn extra point for the storytelling in this film, which is consistently entertaining and inventive. In Gainsbourg's day -- before the briefest little tweet could conjure up a big, ridiculous controversy -- you had to work harder to stir things up. The film shows how he did that, while dealing with his own demons and insecurities. I've always been particularly interested in thinking about Gainsbourg in relation to his daughter Charlotte. She (alas?) looks more like him than her gorgeous mother, but also has his phenomenal ability for shape-shifting, with her serious, terrific talent. This was an interesting look at a her father as a self-made pop culture phenomenon. Full Review »
  2. Sep 5, 2011
    4
    I had moderately high expectations for this film after seeing the very stylish & cool trailer. However, Serge was just enough of a jerk, andI had moderately high expectations for this film after seeing the very stylish & cool trailer. However, Serge was just enough of a jerk, and his alter ego puppet was just annoying enough that the effects of the music and historical context were drowned out. Yes, Eric Elmosnino does a serviceable job as Serge, and Laetitia Casta is outstanding as Bridget Bardot. But it touches too many themes without fully penetrating the lead character's psychology and motivations. Tough to root for the guy. A couple of people in my (packed) theater gave it a round of applause, but the rest of the the group was silent. Full Review »