A literary tale buffered by female empowerment in early 20th Century France is lavishly mounted under the requisite direction of Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice) for a good introduction to (the early years of) an unconventional talented sylvan native writer. Even if, in biopic terms, an aimless commonality prevails before finally settling into a feeling of pensive sadness not knowing how things actually turn out.
Colette stars Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Pride & Prejudice, The Imitation Game, The Duchess, among her many credits) and Dominic West (300, Money Monster, Tomb Raider -2018) are the eponymous novelist (nee Sidonie-Gabrielle) and her needy roué of a husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars, also known as Willy, respectively. This interlude has Willy taking publishing credit for her stimulating and suggestive ‘Claudine’ cycle which brought a spark to the City of Lights.
After sheltered for the early part of their union (which allowed for his carousing) before they would acquiesce to fancy themselves (Willy also tried to lessen their arrears by selling furnishings) she would be lured by the city’s hedonism into a new, if fleeting, liberation. Her works (in Willy’s name), combining the halcyon with impudence, go over quite well with the populace. The mainstay of the melodrama, especially in the latter sections, is Colette’s physical inclinations, as manifested by a notorious dalliance with Mathilde de Morny, Missy, endowed by lionized stage Irish actress Denise Gough. An inviting emotional pull is , despite Knightley’s brassy efficacy and noticeable rapport with her co-stars, particularly West’s grandiloquent and misogynistic Willy.
Westmoreland includes a written epilogue that indicates how much admiration the punished author who didn’t speak highly of suffragettes received. Perhaps it proves how inclusive the final, polished product turned out, but not the independent helmsman’s affection towards a Gallic coming-of-age that would eventually broaden with the likes of ‘Gigi.’