Colette (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

I love smashing some of my preconceived notions about my own tastes, especially when it comes to movies. For a long while, I’ve operated under the idea that period pieces featuring big dresses dealing with European nobility were just not my cup of tea. After The Favourite (2018),  and now Colette (2018), my fancy teacup containing my misconception about this type of movie has been shattered.

Colette was a pleasant surprise; a biopic with a sense of humor

Colette (Keira Knightley) marries an older man and known writer, Willy (Dominic West). He soon pushes her to join his stable of ghostwriters when their finances hit a dire strait. After completing her first novel, it becomes clear she’s got a knack for the craft, and they soon find themselves in much better company. Her talents make her start questioning gender norms of the time and exploring her own individuality.

Knightley’s performances have been up and down for me. I mostly liked her in the Pirates of the Caribean films and in Begin Again (2013), but I’ve not been pulled to see many of her other films. However, she plays a great character in this film. There are a variety of scenes I enjoyed here, but my favorite was the first time she attended a party as Willy’s wife. She clearly doesn’t feel like she fits in, and this emotion is only compounded when she sees Willy flirting with another woman. It’s not long after that her traditional world view is shattered, as she is confronted with the truth of the man she married and the challenges they face. Knightley, much like the plot of the film, only gets better as the time ticks by.

Director Wash Westmoreland and his crew have crafted quite a beautiful production to showcase Knightley’s performance. That same party scene described above is also one of my favorite visuals in the film. The camera follows Colette as she moves through the party, clearly feeling separated from all of the other individuals, which is distinctly demonstrated by the blocking of the scene. Colette is taken away from the proximity of the camera by people and fancy chandeliers. The whole set is gorgeous, but the camera movements and the crowd allow us to truly appreciate its beauty while also feeling out of place.

Furthermore, this film is based on a true story. Originally Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette was a French author who I knew nothing about. It was about a quarter of the way into the film before it becomes clear that the plot will center around Colette’s writing and the relationships involved as a result of it. That was when I began to grow curious about the authenticity of the story, and a Google search later I was informed of the reality of the story. Biopics about individuals one isn’t familiar with can often be more captivating than those of ones we are – at least that was the case with this film. I was much more engaged when I realized I was watching a dramatization of a real person’s life.

Final thoughts…

Colette didn’t interest me when I first saw the poster a few months back. I passed up seeing it on the big screen at least twice. However, after the prodding of a few friends and my wife watching half of this film on the plane before realizing it wasn’t exactly a plane friendly movie, I I finally gave it a chance. Lucky for me I listen to the voices of people whose taste I trust, and Colette earns the Decent Watch rating.

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