Colette is considered to be the greatest French writer of the 20th century, and how she rose from her humble country girl roots to be the toast of Belle Époque Paris society is a truly entertaining and inspirational story. Bringing her to life in this fine biopic is Kiera Knightly in one of her best performances. Colette was an early fighter for women’s equal treatment and the film is a beautifully shot #GirlPower story. This not the big biography of Colette though. It’s the first chapter of her story, the story of how Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette became Colette, how she became a writer, and how she became an independent woman. There is so much more to her story, but this small part makes for a fun ride.

Colette’s marriage to her husband known simply as Willy (Dominic West), brought her to Paris and introduced her to the avant-garde world in which he circulated. He was known as a writer, but in fact had a stable full of ghostwriters and took credit for their work. And he always needed more writers, since he lived large and was constantly in debt. So when Colette told him a few of her country girl stories, he asked her to write them for him. And the resulting Claudine books became a huge hit, with Willy taking credit for their success. Initially Colette went along with the ruse, but after several books and the publicity surrounded them, her wish to be given her due broke them up and launched her celebrity. Alongside the story of Colette’s literary awakening is her sexual one. She had very public affairs with several women and scandalized Paris when she kissed another woman on stage. And she took all of her experiences and wrote about them, making her the best selling author and Nobel Prize nominee she later became.

Colette is a sumptuous visual feast with a beautiful score. Knightly gives her best performance yet, and her chemistry with West is perfect. Director Wash Westmoreland’s previous work (Still Alice, Quinceañera) with his late husband Richard Glatzer who co-wrote this film would not seem to have prepared him for this lavish period drama, but he totally pulls it off, and I look forward to his next projects. I recommend this film to wide audiences, those who love a good period flick, and especially women looking for another great feminist icon. You’ll most likely want to head to the bookstore later to buy a few of her books, too.

[Mainstream Chick’s quick take: I’m not a big fan of period pieces but I agree that Knightly and West deliver strong performances that help make this interesting story a bit more appealing to a wider audience. -hb]

And if you’re in the DC-Metro area, you could win a couple of free tickets at THIS LINK!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *