In late eighteenth century France, Gabrielle Colette (Kiera Knightly) is dowry-less bride who marries bon-vivant theatre critic Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West). Moving into his Parisian home, Gabrielle is exposed to the demands of high-society and Henry’s team of writers charged with bolstering his literary reputation. However as Henry squanders their savings, it is Gabrielle who must pick up the pen, and in doing so, she creates a rebellious future for herself.
…a period drama high on detail and trusted thespian talent.
‘Still Alice’s’ Wash Westmoreland’s latest feature is a period drama high on detail and trusted thespian talent. Charting the rebellious blossoming of an era-defining voice, ‘Colette’ is a historical story that wears its credentials somewhat plainly on the screen. With its solid, if unsurprising casting, lead actors Kiera Knightly and Dominic West spar between the conventions of the day as much as they do each other. Their characters’ withering and bombastic complaints ricochet around the plot, and eventually compound into an discomfort that ultimately threatens their creative union. In all the ensuing thrashing, Knightly’s character is the one that grows whereas West’s subsides, and for the purposes of the narrative, that’s probably as it should be. However in the closing credits of this literary biopic you’re still left with the feeling of a tale half-told and an epochal significance only hinted at.
On balance, as historical biopics go, ‘Colette’ is a solid, if arid entry into cinema’s collected works about famous authors. Sadly lacking the bite of Salma Hayek’s ‘Frida’, Knightly’s ‘Colette’ is set to remain an overlooked figure, dimmed behind this perfunctory shadow of a movie.