Rob Reviews "Colette"
With the first day of fall having come and gone, that means that the race is officially on for awards season, and in back-to-back weeks, I have seen films that are blatantly trying to stake their claims in this category. Last week, with “A Star is Born,” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga pled their case (which came upon deaf ears to this guy), and this week, we all have the opportunity to bear witness to a guy who knows a little bit about awards with “Still Alice” director Was Westmoreland’s “Colette”.
Based on a true story, this is the story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley), a young girl from the French countryside who has captured the heart (and hand) of aristocrat Willy (Dominic West). Willy has made a career as a critic and producer of live entertainment, but he has bigger aspirations to write a novel. Now, ambition is a noble trait to have, but in this case by “write,” he means “have somebody else write and put Willy’s name on it”. When his closest advisors don’t seem to be able to get the job done, he turns to his wife who has been writing official letters for him for some time. Relying on her life experiences, she pens “Claudine,” and it becomes one of the fastest-selling novels France has seen in quite some time. As the audience’s thirst for more “Claudine” stories becomes more prevalent, Colette’s world goes through both upheaval and growth in ways she could never imagine.
If you are not aware of how this story plays out, I will not spoil it so the journey through “Colette” can play itself out, but I will say that this is not a film you want to sit through with the family. There is an “R” rating here because of some seriously adult material that will also not sit well with those who live their lives on the conservative side of things. As this takes place over the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, a lot of the topics that Colette explores are seen as severely taboo, and are presented in a way where the message itself comes across clearly but not in a way that is uncomfortable or seems to carry an agenda.
Although the performances here are not stellar, I found both Knightley and West more than serviceable, with chemistry that far outperforms that of the other film mentioned earlier in this review. There is both palpable love and tension that comes off in a very organic and real way that kept me focused on the characters portrayed in an excellent way, and paired with Westmoreland’s vision (he also co-wrote the script) and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens’ eye, this is a wonderful vision to behold. (If there is any chatter for awards, I would be least surprised by the latter.)
If there is any criticism here, it is simply that the film seems too long. There is a lot of detail in the story itself, and it flirts with collapsing under its own weight in more than one place. This is not necessarily as a general rule (especially as the inspiration of one of the novels plays out with a wealthy American), but it definitely feels more than the just under two hour run time.
It would not surprise me if “Colette” was just on the outside looking in as the press is assembled to find out who will have the chance to look into a camera and thank a ton of people with some hardware under its name, but also be prepared to hear this film’s name every once and again, which may actually give it a better chance.