Colette - This Movie Belle Epoque Rocks
Dir: Wash Westmoreland
Starring Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough, Eleanor Tomlinson, Fiona Shaw, Robert Pugh
Keira Knightley strikes a blow as proto-feminist author Colette in this handsome and determinately modern biopic. She comes to Paris in the late 19th century as the newly married wife of literary entrepreneur Willy (West.) Her stories – autobiographical tales of a schoolgirl named Claudine - become a sensation throughout Paris and tensions arise due to their being published under her husband’s name. As the fame of her creation rises, Colette seeks to assert herself through a series of scandalous affairs, eventually turning to the stage before attempting to reclaim her intellectual property.
Played with a distinct contemporary edge, Westmoreland’s film is sumptuous to look at, evoking the belle époque era as a thriving, breathing world. West brings a great deal of both brio and depth to Willy, a man living to impress all those around him, yet stifled by his own lack of creativity. Knightley meanwhile is hugely impressive as Colette, finding her way – indeed creating her way – in a rapidly changing but still patriarchal world.
Ultimately, the movie crams so much in it starts to feel more and more like a conventional biopic, but Knightley dominates everything in a very convincing manner.
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