"Abhorrent, Slow-Moving Promotion of a Libertine Lifestyle"
Set during the Gay 1890s and early 1900s in Paris, COLETTE follows the literary life of well-known publisher and avant-garde flirt, Willy (Dominic West), and the brains behind the books that launched him into even greater fame, his wife Colette (Keira Knightley), who became a decadent French writer with a libertine philosophy.
Coming close to bankruptcy and unable to pay his own writers, Willy urges Colette to write a novel. Having been educated in a country school outside of Paris, Colette bases her first piece of writing off that education, and the friends and experiences she had there. “Claudine a l’Ecole” (CLAUDINE AT SCHOOL) is published under her husband’s name and becomes widely renown due to its literary and sensuous elegance.
As Willy and Colette’s marriage disintegrates, due to Willy’s own affairs, the movie reveals Colette’s awakening passion for not only writing, but also her relationships with women and a love of the Parisian underworld, theater and the infamous cabaret called Moulin Rouge, the Red Windmill.
Based on a true story, COLETTE seeks to answer one question “Who is the title character?” Starting as a simple country girl in love with a Parisian artist, the audience watches Colette transform as she adapts to a husband she barely knows and the decadent 20th century lifestyle in France where everything goes. Knightly portrays this bildungsroman through a subtle increase in a more masculine wardrobe and hairstyle and progressively amoral behavior and convictions, as well as the increasing sensuality of the novels she’s writing and the decadent lifestyle she’s blatantly living.
The music, costumes, set design, and attention to historical detail in COLETTE are phenomenal. As usual, Keira Knightley delivers an excellent performance and portrayal of the title role, along with a superb performance by Dominic West as the wayward husband. The movie captures what Paris must have been like during the turn of the last century in its decadence and disregard for moral standards.
However, those are the only things that can be praised about this movie. For example, COLETTE has an abhorrent and unnecessary amount of sex scenes between both men and women, as well as women and women. Consequently, the entire plot feels as though it was merely a means to have pornography on the big screen, which only communicates poor writing. The movie was uncomfortable to sit through as well as slow moving.
Though set more than 100 years ago, COLETTE truly fits today’s culture. It praises infidelity between a man and wife. It normalizes homosexual, transgender and radical feminist behavior. It also justifies feelings over wisdom, as well as self over others, and it will be a rallying cry for amoral behavior.
Willy is caught cheating on his wife early in the movie, causing his wife to thoroughly rethink marriage and her expectations. Encouraging Colette’s need for self-discovery, her mother turns to her and says, “No one can take away who you are. You’re too strong for that. Trust yourself and no one else.” Afterwards, Colette says, “I must get used to marriage,” but mother in turn says, “Better get marriage used to you.” Colette, having given up on her traditional expectations of marriage, decides along with Willy to pursue non-traditional routes. Both of them agree they can have relationships with other people, so long as they are honest about it. However, Willy doesn’t want Colette to have any relationships with men. This leads to several affairs with women on Colette’s part. One of those women was simultaneously her lover as well as her husband’s. In turn, the latter relationship is used as a fuel for Colette and Willy’s second novel.
Ultimately, honesty of their affairs is a justification for infidelity on both their parts. Willy’s decisions are always centered around what would be best for him rather than his wife. Her decisions are based on finding who she is. Also, their relationship eventually is based on a business contract, which Colette writes for him while he gets the credit and brings in the finances. It goes on and on and on.
Though some moviegoers may be a fan of historical fiction, Paris or Keira Knightley, COLETTE is an abhorrent movie with little or no redemptive qualities. Moviegoers with any moral standards and any media wisdom will want to avoid COLETTE.
Set during the Gay 1890s and early 1900s in Paris, COLETTE follows the literary life of well-known publisher and avant-garde flirt, Willy, and the ghostwriter behind the books that launched him into even greater fame, his wife Colette. As her marriage disintegrates because of Willy’s affairs, Colette finds her voice through the novels she writes, as well as her relationships with women. She becomes a celebrity of her era, experimenting and eventually embracing a lesbian lifestyle while remaining married to Willy. She demands credit for her writing and even performs at the leading, scandalous cabaret of her age, the Moulin Rouge. She breaks all moral rules and in turn discovers a new identity, refusing to let others control her.
COLETTE the movie contains a wonderful score, beautiful costumes, excellent performances, and a style that captures the era in which it’s set. However, it’s extremely slow and often uncomfortable to watch. It also has a strong Romantic, politically correct, feminist, immoral, libertine worldview with many lewd bedroom scenes and homosexual elements. So, COLETTE is an abhorrent movie with little or no redemptive qualities.