WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
After marrying a successful Parisian writer known commonly as "Willy," Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is transplanted from her childhood home in rural France to the intellectual and artistic splendour of Paris. Soon after, Willy convinces Colette to ghost write for him. She pens a semi-autobiographical novel about a witty and brazen country girl named Claudine, sparking a bestseller and a cultural sensation. After its success, Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris and their adventures inspire additional Claudine novels. Colette’s fight over creative ownership and gender roles drives her to overcome societal constraints, revolutionising literature, fashion and sexual expression.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Keira Knightley transforms effortlessly into Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (aka Colette); the strong-willed centrepiece of this incredible biopic that perfectly illustrates modern truths using the context of a different time.
From sexism to bigotry and abuse this award contender is about so much more than period costumes and love gone sour. It’s about a brilliant woman discovering that sexual freedom, creative expression and self-affirmation are all hers for the taking.
Dominic West is Kiera’s perfect foil in the film as the charming villain Willy, who marries a young Colette, takes credit for her work and keeps her locked in rooms to do his bidding. Their tumultuous love story is the backdrop for most of the film and it’s fascinating to think that everything that happened between them is documented historical fact, because it is deliciously messy.
Another highlight is the lavish and dreamlike world in which Colette is set that feels like a French impressionists’ painting. A beautiful detail that is very fitting because there are lots of references in the flick to luminaries of the art world who were setting the world alight at the time during which the title character wrote her famous series of semi-autobiographical books, that started with Claudine à l'école.
My favourite aspect of the flick was how Colette’s writing was used in a very creative way to unpack sex and power. I specifically enjoyed the way that sexuality was approached in this film. Nothing was black and white but instead Colette’s exploration of who she was and who she was attracted to (and ultimately ended up with) was an organic journey that was not wrapped up neatly with a bow but just left be with no questions asked.
The one thing that bothered me about the film was the pacing and Willy’s character development. It’s a tricky line to walk between fleshing out a world for your characters to live in and repetition of a point that’s already been made. I also totally understand that perhaps Willy was just a born asshole who stayed that way but then maybe we could spend less time with background characters adoring him. That is only a tiny aspect of a film that I would otherwise wholeheartedly recommend to someone who wants to meet and fall in love with a woman that history should remember in much bolder font.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: