CF Review: ‘Colette’
A Biopic About a Woman Fighting for Her Creative Voice
Done with her pirating days, Keira Knightley stars in Colette, an independent feature released on October 12th, 2018. The film is a biopic that follows the life of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a French country woman who moves to Paris after marrying a writer who is commonly known as Willy. Shortly after moving to Paris, Willy convinces her to ghostwrite a novel for him. After the book becomes a wild success, Colette finds herself trapped in this marriage as Willy forces her to ghostwrite more novels for him. As Colette fights for creative ownership, she overcomes gender norms and societal restraints that are rampant during the early 1900s.
The books she writes are semi-autobiographical novels that follow the life of a country girl named Claudine. The first book, Claudine at School, were roughly based on Claudine’s experiences at school in the French countryside. The book was a wild success. The next few books were based off of Colette moving to Paris, and moments of her marriage with Willy.
Colette finds out that Willy cheats on her, and goes to the countryside to clear her head. Willy is very territorial when it comes to Colette, so he won’t let her converse with other men, but he does allow her to mingle with other women. Once Colette comes back to Paris, she starts to have an affair with a woman. Willy goes to the lady’s apartment and starts to have an affair with her as well. The editing of this sequence of the film is great and funny, as well as shows how often the duos sleeps together and how close they’ve almost ran into each other either leaving or arriving. Colette shows up to the apartment, while Willy is there. However, he flees before Colette is able to run in on them actually together.
This affair triangle ends up being in Colette’s next novel. When Willie and Colette are talking about this part in the book, they sort of talk about themselves and their marriage through the characters within the novel. It is a very well-written and humorous scene in the film.
Just a side note: There are a few sex scenes in the film, so I do not recommend seeing this film with your parents. I saw Colette with my parents and it was unpleasant. It doesn’t matter the sex scenes, a woman with a man or a woman with a woman, it was just awkward for me.
Colette went on to have a number of relationships with women—one being with a lady named Missy; her and Colette shared the stage during a revue and kissed. This led to a riot and the run of the shows being cancelled.
This film definitely sheds some light on the untold stories of women who started overcoming gender norms, and who wanted to control their own lives during the 1900s. They wanted to work for themselves and make a living, instead of relying on their husband. As a woman, the film annoyed me when Willy would force Colette to write by locking her in her room. I don’t like the idea of a man demanding or forcing a woman to do anything for him. Even back in the early 1900s, the fact that a man thought it was their right to control a woman is atrocious. I also find it terrifying that some men of today still think that this type of behavior is okay. This film is a reminder of how far women have come in attaining their own rights as human beings, but also shows that we still have a ways to go as a species to hit the equality button.
Directed by Wash Westmoreland, who also directed Still Alice, the film is beautifully captured and has a certain wit to its dialogue, as seen in most British films. Keira Knightley plays Colette with such poise with a twist of wit and brazenness. She’s definitely had a long career that has spanned many mainstream films, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but has also been able to cultivate a career by starring in many independent period pieces.
This film is a breath of fresh air amidst the cookie cutter mainstream films that are produced nowadays.