I have a had a life-long love of the arts; enjoying theatre, ballet, art and movies. We are all time poor and have limits to our entertainment budget so I hope an honest review will help make your choices easier.
The beautifully filmed story of a woman who found her own voice
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette has been a source of inspiration and fascination for countless readers ever since she first rose to fame, and infamy, in early 20th century France. Her story has now been translated by Wash Westmoreland into an inspiring, funny and beautifully filmed historical biopic.
Collette (Keira Knightly) raised in the country is seduced by the charming, and much older, Willy (Dominic West). They marry and Collette begins a new life in Paris, mixing with the intellectual and artistic elite. Willy, full of charm, makes a living as a writer and reviewer. Relying on his reputation and connections to open doors, he spends all his time and money wooing influential and wealthy Parisians. With partying consuming his time, he employs a group of ghost-writers to do all the dirty work.
When times get tough, Willy puts Colette to work. 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, Willy and Colette become the Belle Époque (celebrity couple); their personal lives and their sexually adventurous scandals all fuelling subsequent novels.
However, from the sidelines, Colette grows weary of Willy taking credit for her work. So begins her fight for ownership of her creative progeny. During her struggle to find her own voice Colette also challenges the societal constraints of her time, redefining gender roles, and revolutionising literature, fashion and sexual expression.
This struggle for female equality is a topic we are all well aware of. As such, I went to this film with some trepidation... fearful of a lecture and stereotypical characters. What I found instead was a very human story, where the complexity of each character was well explored.
Willy could easily have been cast as the 'all male' villain—cruelly dominating his wife for his own glory and Colette painted as innocent and totally subjugated. Instead, we find that Willy is simply human with both strengths and weaknesses; truly in love with his wife and not malicious in his intent. Equally, Colette is neither naive or weak; as a young woman, she is intelligent and enquiring, willing to draw her own conclusions and pursue her own aberrant desires. In avoiding such simple stereotypes, Westmorland has created a film truly worth your time and money.
West and Knightly were perfectly cast for these roles. He capturing the subtle duality of this charming rogue, while she is strong, independent and totally sexy. With beautiful costuming and breathtaking cinematography, I was transported to another time and then reminded that women like Colette have been bucking against social constraints and defining their own path in life for centuries.