September 24, 2018

VIFF 2018 | Keira Knightley Rewrites 'Colette'

"Are you Claudine or are you Colette?"
Keira Knightley Dominic West Wash Westmoreland | Colette | VIFF 2018

VIFF 2018Keira Knightley stars in the eponymous literary biopic of the famed Parisian novelist behind the Claudine series. Sufficed to say, Colette is pretty much exactly what you'd want from a period costume drama starring the British actress.

As Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette, Knightley propels the story with a grace and charm that grounds the contradictory feminist icon who took female lovers while also tolerating her husband's many vices and ghostwriting his literary works. It's a towering performance that's tasked to quickly establish and cement Colette's identity before getting to the fun and strife of her unrecognized success.

Director Wash Westmoreland frames the film around the sudden popularity of the Claudine series and how their marriage coped with their unusual romantic arrangements. Dominic West as her notorious husband Willy is perfectly dubious while rocking some ornate facial hair and fake belly. It's a delicious role that avoids the monstrous husband archetype while still expressing their wide gender power imbalance by contrasting their personalities yet firmly establishing their transgressive relationship.

Keira Knightley Dominic West Wash Westmoreland | Colette | VIFF 2018

Scripted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Richard Glatzer, and Westmoreland, the film's story has a nice flow quickly established their marriage, Willy's questionable business dealings, and empowering Colette through her forced writing. It's also an interesting portrait of libertine French society where open lifestyles were accepted so long as you were a man. She challenged these perceptions and gained power through her writing talent.

Colette ultimately proves to be a rather polite and sexy dramatization of the writer. How it expresses female creative independence and desire in entertaining ways makes the film pop. Knightley's performance is magnetic with the unenviable task of personifying this complex woman into an identifiable figure beyond her writing and relationships.

Colette screens at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream.

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