Film review: Colette
Synopsis:Kiera Knightley stars in this biographical drama based on the life of French mime, actress and novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye and affectionately known as “Gabri”, Colette started life as a country girl who marries writer Henry Gauthier-Villars – better known as Willy. Played by Dominic West, Willy introduces Gabri to the glamour and hedonism of the Parisian Salon where she reinvents herself as simply Colette.
With no prelude or pretence, director Wash Westmoreland throws audiences straight into the couple’s first days of marriage.
We watch Kiera Knightley grow in the role and make it her own, successfully transforming the naïve Gabri into the avant garde, female dandy Colette. Knightley’s portrayal as the smitten “little wife” is a role she visibly strains against. However, she comes into her own as the rebellious and free willed Colette who will do what she wants, when she pleases in a Paris that often smothers female genius.
All the while Willy simpers and smiles as he enforces his own standard of femininity on Colette using her literary creation, Claudine. Dominic West owns the role of Willy as a master manipulator and practiced liar who happily uses Colette for his own gain.
The film is set to the background of 19th century Paris, showing Willy’s life of faded extravagance and pretentious salon tastes. Scattered throughout the movie are scenes of quaint, provincial countryside that are dear to Colette, showing the inherent differences between the two.
Colette’s style, perfectly reimagined by costume designer Andrea Flesch, is a prelude to the tailored simplicity of Coco Chanel’s designs. Flesch also pays homage to the beginnings of the androgynous and cross-dressing fashion that flourished during this time.
But for those looking for a bit more fashionable decadence, the film still features its fair share of lace, ruffles, feathers and silk corsets.
The scenes, sets and fashion can’t be faulted however the cast of Colette is sorely lacking in authenticity. Westmoreland’s French bohemian paradise is made up of English actors who are either poorly reimagining a French accent or not bothering at all – we’re looking at you Knightley.
Despite this, Colette’s story is worth being told - especially in a time when society has begun to tackle issues such as transgender rights, sexuality and traditional gender roles.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Kiera Knightley, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson, Denise Gough, Aiysha Hart
If you liked the movie, try:
Atonement, Pride and Prejudice, Coco Before Chanel, The Duchess.
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