Dominic West plays the French author’s exploitative husband in this invigorating and kinky biopic set during the belle époque
Wash Westmoreland’s Colette is A Star Is Born for the belle époque: a biopic of French literary phenomenon Colette in her early years that is invigorating, mercenary and kinky. It busies itself with sex and fame – and also something rarely acknowledged in detail in costume dramas about writers: money. This is the story of how talented young author and country mouse Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (played with wand-like grace by Keira Knightley) submits in 1893 to marriage and commercial exploitation by an older man from the big city, the mediocre and flatulent critic-slash-publisher Henri Gauthier-Villars, pen-named “Willy”.
He brings out her wildly popular Claudine novels (racy autobiographical adventures of girlish yearning) under his own name, without giving his wife a smidgen of the acclaim rightly owing to her, still less any loot. Willy is played with a smirk and a goatee by Dominic West, who also importantly endows him with bullish charm. Yet West makes him a grisly and decreasingly engaging figure, especially when the philandering Willy becomes someone who needs his mistresses to dress as schoolgirls (in the modish “Claudine” garb) before he can get an erection.
Colette review – Keira Knightley shines as a racy writer wronged