Director Wash Westmoreland’s Colette highlights the struggle of women (no matter who they were) trying to escape the shadow of their husbands during the late 1800’s. While some languished in their attempts, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette soars to new heights living a life most anyone would envy. Her career ranged from publishing 80 different pieces, showing up various sporting events (which for this period was unheard of), and covering the Tour de France. While it seems that Westmoreland’s version of events is bit brighter than what may have took place, he doesn’t shy from touching some more of the tense moments of her life.
I’m not exactly sure that the amount of time Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiwicz, and Westmoreland’s narrative spent on her courtship with Wily (Dominic West) was entirely necessary. While it’s understandable that Westmoreland wanted to lay the foundation for their relationship, the first act (the courtship) wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the two acts of the film. However, there was something about the movie that didn’t seem right to me. It’s almost as if it was too neat. There’s an affair with a step-son and numerous moments of drug abuse which were for the most glossed over.
‘Colette’ should have been a tale of metamorphosis. A woman in Europe during this period should have never reached the heights Knightly’s character did. However, Westmoreland’s film gives much more credit to Wily than history does. In this version, he’s seen as the gateway to a new world of acceptance when in reality it was only a matter of time before her talent was going to take her there. This comes off as a tab bit disingenuous. For a writer who inspired empowerment, ‘Colette’ does little to showcase that very thing.
Performance wise, Knightly and West are fine enough, but one can’t help, but wonder had the narrative been crafted with more authenticity in mind, would that have translated into better performances from our two leads? In reality, West’s character should have been more of a monster towards Colette. Why sugar coat things we already know to be fact? To me, too much was left out of her life, and for that, the film suffered. Overall, ‘Colette’ is an average 2.5 out of 5 stars making it not worth seeing in the theaters.