If all period pieces feel the same to you, Colette will offer a breath of fresh air into the genre. It has all the charm of a film based on a Jane Austen novel but with rather risqué and suggestive undertones. It’s a tale that while mostly based in the 1800’s, feels rather timely in today’s climate – where we’re finally hearing the voices of females that have been silenced for far too long.
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (played effortlessly by Keira Knightley) falls for and marries a rather successful Parisian author known as “Willy” (played by Dominic West). After their marriage, Colette is transplanted from her country home in rural France to the hustle and bustle of Paris. It’s not long after Colette’s arrival that it’s clear the Willy brand needs some new life breathed into it – and Colette takes on the task of ghost writing for Willy. Taking stories from her childhood, Colette crafts the tale of a rather bold country girl named Claudine – who becomes the most popular fictional girl in all of Paris. The success of the novels create a cultural sensation, and Colette and Willy become the talk of Paris. However, as time progresses, the realization that Colette is living in her husband’s shadow becomes a heavier weight to bear. From his infidelity, to her finding new lovers, to overcoming societal constraints and revolutionizing literature, fashion, and sexual expression – the film as whole does a superb job at painting the not so flattering picture of gender roles in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Take a look at the trailer below.
Keira Knightley fits like a dream in this genre, and Colette is no exception to her talents at capturing not only the grace of females from the era – but also the strength and boldness that Colette possessed inside her all along. Dominic West does a solid job at initially charming audiences and then becoming villain in the blink of an eye. Together their on-screen power compliments each other well and does a great job at telling this story.
The film as a whole feels rather long, and at 111 minutes it’s really not. While the pacing feels slow, the storytelling remains interesting enough to keep audiences engulfed. It may be a period piece, but it’s by no means your average costume drama, but instead a rather electric, erotic, and inspiring film.
Overall, Colette does a fabulous job at capturing the story of a French literary genius who was also trailblazing feminist. It’s worth seeing – and celebrating.