After making waves at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, Colette has made its way into U.S. cinemas.
The movie stars Keira Knightley as the eponymous Colette, a woman who is pressured by her husband to write novels under his name. However, as the books become successful, she wishes to get credit for her work, challenging the gender norms of the time
In this era, Colette’s story is more important than ever. It is the story of a woman in the arts of whom men take advantage and manipulate. Moreover, it is a film about a woman who dares to express herself and her sexuality, messages which are still too often ignored.
However, the movie manages to not be sententious about these messages, instead of presenting them in a naturalistic way that flows with the story. Much of the film is surprisingly upbeat and quickly-paced, allowing the audience to get wrapped up in the story and its characters. As a result, it is far more entertaining than the average biopic.
The characters are also quite empathetic. The protagonist is highly likable and well-developed over the course of the story. She is one of the strongest, most rounded characters to grace the screen all year, female or male. Even though Willy is misogynistic and manipulative, the film does an excellent job of making him into a real person, not just a caricature. This is important, as it legitimizes the struggle that Colette faces.
That being said, there are some issues with the movie’s timeline. Even though the film is very clear about the passage of time, there are significant gaps in the story. While it is likely that nothing important happened in these periods of Colette’s life, the story feels jumpy nonetheless.
Additionally, towards the middle of the film, it begins to devolve into more typical, melodramatic fare when a love triangle subplot is introduced. This subplot was disappointingly bland and exploitative. Luckily, this only takes up a short amount of time, and the movie can recover.
The execution of the film is solid. The cinematography and production design are both beautiful. These elements work together well to periodize the movie. Furthermore, the use of music in the film is quite good. The score is elegant and accentuated the tense and dramatic moments of the story.
The performances in the film are of high quality, too. Knightley knocks it out of the park as the eponymous protagonist. She delivers an awards-worthy performance, perhaps the strongest of her already impressive career. Dominic West complements her well in his role. The two have great chemistry together (positive and negative), the scenes they share being the highlights of the movie.
Overall, Colette is a terrific film. It has an interesting, albeit flawed, story with a great message that lends itself to phenomenal performances. This is one to keep on your radar come awards season.
Colette is now playing in select theaters and expands October 12.