|Via: Boston Herald
Colette is a fantastic period drama with beautiful production design, witty dialogue, and a dynamic performance from Keira Knightley.
Sidonie-Gabriel Colette (Knightley) lives comfortably as a simple, French, country girl who is known locally as the “girl with the hair”. But when she falls in love and marries popular writer Willy (Dominic West), her quiet rural surroundings become the extravagant and gossip-fueled walls of Paris. While struggling to adjust to her new bustling lifestyle, Colette is asked by her husband to write a novel, desperate for anything profitable. Rapidly, Colette’s partly-true stories fly off the shelves and turn her and Willy into great successes. But when Willy presses her for more content, and she becomes interested in things beyond writing, conflict between the couple ensues as Colette seeks to take back her life.
Keira Knightley solidifies her title as queen of the period piece with her best performance since Begin Again in 2014, in which it begins quietly but quickly builds up as her character becomes more brazen. By the latter half of the film, you realize the impressiveness of what she is able to accomplish so subtly in terms of her character’s dynamicity. But just as much of a shining star in the film, Dominic West is exceptionally amusing. He brings so much energy and wit to the role of Willy, that despite his character being an awful husband, you can’t help but enjoy his being on screen. Willy is a character you sympathize with even though you shouldn’t, and I think the reason is because of West’s exuberant and larger than life performance.
One of my favorite features of the film, however, was the production and costume design. Both the settings and the dress of the characters are beautiful and top notch in reconstructing the time period. The depiction of Paris was largely interior, and the inside of buildings were elegant and intricate; I wish we got to see more of the outdoors of Paris. The film does a good job at contrasting the busyness of the city with the quiet of the natural countryside, which helps establishing urban-grown Willy as more of a foil to the provincial-raised Colette.
Something else the film did well, was its camera work. We get a variation of camera angles and one specific shot the film benefits from are these circular panning shots – where the camera slowly reveals all the details of the scene to the audience. For example, in one scene a male mime appears to be singing very high-pitched but the camera pans over to reveal the mime is only lip-syncing to another woman’s voice; this moment confuses the audience and grabs our attention before redirecting to reason. Another example early in the film is when Colette first meets some of Willy’s friends. The camera does a full 360 around their conversation and gives us a good look at all the faces of those involved; since each character’s face is revealed one at a time, we are able to focus more closely on what their facial reactions say about their overall attitude towards those speaking (or more accurately, being judged).
I also greatly enjoyed the script’s dialogue, which had great wit and interesting truth; the score is also solid, ramping up in key moments where it is demanded. The core criticism I have with the film is regarding a lack of emotional investment, primarily due to there never being a feeling of fear for Colette. There aren’t any moments where Colette feels completely helpless or in trouble, she always feels like she can handle herself and take control of the scene if necessary. So, when the final confrontation between her and Willy arrives, it doesn’t pack the same kind of satisfying emotional punch the directors were aiming for.
Colette didn’t carry the typical slow burn feel we would expect from this kind of movie and surprised me in how much I enjoyed it; I would say it is one of my favorite period pieces of the last few years and a top film of 2018 thus far. 8.5/10