Director: Wash Westmoreland
Keira Knightley simply doesn’t age; she’s been the period piece It Girl for years now, since Pride & Prejudice perhaps, and that’s more than thirteen years ago. Some other actresses have popped up as her replacement (Mia Wasikowska), but since she doesn’t seem to get any older, why try to fix what isn’t broken? She’s now approaching her mid-30s, but can still steal these young debutant roles, and since there’s absolutely no one who’s quite on her level, I think we could see her continue this game for another thirteen years, why not, she’s lasted this young. She’s talented, remarkable, beautiful, and has succeeded in whatever has been thrown her way; it’s about time we recognize Knightley as the special actress she is and the icon she will someday be.
Gabrielle is a simple, single girl from the French countryside; her family is well-to-do enough, she loves her town, the nature that surrounds it, and her greatest hope is to marry the famed writer “Willy”, who is a friend of the family and who has already fallen head over heels for this darling young lady. The pair marry, move to Willy’s Paris home/office, and begin their life together, though it’s nothing either of them thought it would be. Willy is famous yet broke, always scheming for the next franc, always gambling away profits, sometimes writing something original, but usually relying on the clever words of others and passing them through under his name so that they can sell. The Parisian literary world isn’t simple, that’s for sure.
Gabrielle finds this out quickly for herself when Willy asks her to write for his as well. The two have by now had their fair share of troubles; Willy’s philandering, repossession of assets, broken promises. But she, now going by her second name, Colette, has begun to push back against the assumptions that the husband will have all the fun while the wife will stay quietly at home. As she begins to write, Colette begins to see the world from a different point of view, and her tastes come into focus more keenly as she begins to wonder what it is she truly desires, not what the world desires of her. Unorthodox relationships, unusual dress, new hairstyles, provocative books; Colette begins experimenting and begins also to find what makes her uniquely happy.
The messages here are clear, and there are a lot of them. Colette is a figure that represents the changing role of women, the freedom to love whomever you want, the difficulty in dressing and acting and being however you choose, the pushback that’s inevitable whenever change threatens. Colette sleeps with women, she dresses like a man, she begins acting, she tells the world that she’s the actual author of these boundary-pushing stories; she won’t sit meekly by as others take the credit and have the fun. I didn’t know anything about this historical figure going in, so it was fascinating to see the story played out, and to see these themes from the point of view of this era in a way I’m sure I never have before.
Knightley knows this role inside and out, and although I’m sure Colette gave her certain challenges, it was obvious that she slid into the character and the era and the style seamlessly because she knew exactly what to do. I haven’t grown tired of her yet, I love that she has the ability to inhabit these characters, but I guess eventually we’ll need someone else to fill this void, when Keira has grown up and moved on, which will be a bittersweet day. She’s so talented, Dominic West was a good backdrop for her to shine against, and wow the costumes and sets, they were something to remember. But the rest, honestly, was a bit tedious and a bit boring. We’ve seen these movies before, they are usually a bit sleepy even while being interesting, and it’s hard to get excited about the expected results. That’s not a harsh criticism, but it is prevalent enough through the film to make it unable to soar; the ceiling was low, it met expectations, but won’t be something we ever recall with passion.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (1080p HD Widescreen) and shot using an Arri Alexa camera, the video quality of the Blu-ray is on par with what we’ve seen from this media and this genre before, without any real surprises. The sets and costumes are extravagant, the colors and lights are well-used, the picture is crisp; everything you’d expect from a Blu-ray of a period piece drama.
Audio – The disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with an option of English Descriptive Video Service Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. The audio quality is rather nice, with a pleasant backing score that suits the mood and an adequate balance between dialogue and music. The sound may not wow, but it is definitely not a distraction.
Extras – There are a few special features on the Blu-ray, though nothing to get too excited about. There are five Deleted Scenes, The Story Behind Colette is a 2-minute featurette giving some background, Notes On A Scene is an 8-minute featurette with the director, and there is a Costume Design Photo Gallery for those interested in that aspect.
Recommended. Where Colette goes wrong is in thinking that every viewer will be as excited about this content as the director, because while the characters, themes, and messages are interesting, they also require a bit of energy to get fully behind, and the film doesn’t provide enough oomph to keep eyelids from drooping. That’s the film’s main flaw, that it’s sleepy and slow, with fascinating pieces but not “exciting” enough of an entire product to keep attention focused as long as is necessary. Knightley’s still got it, West was strong, there are many positives to point to, it’s just a matter of each audience member’s keen interest, and mine often wandered as the movie slowly dripped on. The video was solid, the audio as well, and there are a few bonus features, so the technical aspects don’t fail the film. It’s simply that the film itself will bore more often than it entices, resulting in a feature that will never break through the boundaries of its genre.
☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay