Colette is a film that struggles to find itself and once it finally does, it’s where it should have been all along.
Whether that was intentional or not, that too is the actual journey of the titular character here, played by Keira Knightley who once again dusts off the corsets and costumes of centuries gone by.
The newest film by director Wash Westmoreland, director of the brilliant Julianne Moore vehicle Still Alice, Colette once again pulls out a brilliant lead female performance that deals with identity and loss of control, albeit in different circumstances.
Colette, in its construction, is a very capable movie. It lacks in the flair and the style and the voice, but it’s parts help keep it together. At its head, we have Knightley and Dominic West’s back and forth, West being the icon who thrives in the franchise built on ghostwriting taking France by storm, and Knightley being the ghostwriter who realises the changing ways of society and the changing ways of how she sees the world and people begins to shape her into the force she was always meant to be.
At times it’s hard to stick with Colette, because it feels a bit stuck in its ways. For all the interesting stories contained in its 111 minute runtime, it all feels a little flat and unremarkable. Not through the execution, but the timing. There’s nothing outrageous about its content, it’s bohemian lifestyle in this day and age. Which is a good sign of our still changing times, but also means that Colette is a film that will pass by many. Not only written off because of it being a Keira Knightley costume drama, but also because it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Colette deals with all manner of things. Sexism, identity, gender, relationships, writing, creativity, voice, sex, deception. There’s a whole cavalcade of buzzwords and spicy themes, and while it’s fun and interesting to watch it, there’s just nothing about Colette that really injects you with a sign that this film is something special.
For someone unaware of the story behind the story, Colette certainly remains interesting in how Colette’s literary creation became such a phenomenon and however it skyrocketed, she was always pushed to the side of the bombastic brand created and lauded by her husband.
Colette lives such an interesting life as we watch it progress through her early years, it gives us a good germ of a biopic story.
It just lacks something. It doesn’t have that secret sauce that puts it aside from similar movies. It certainly has some utterly brilliant costume design (criminally unrecognised but understandable in the world of The Favourite), and it gives us career best performances from Knightley and West...and yet...it inspires not too much beyond a “Yeah, that was good”.
Colette will not set the world on fire like her literary creation did. It’s the slightest snag but to have a British production meld with a French setting (down to characters writing in French but of course being English) makes one curious to see if a completely French production would change things. Much like the scenes of Colette’s character Claudine being so huge she got adapted for the stage, the movie Colette looks like it has a lot of the key details. But it’s slightly off, and it’s not as good as the real deal.