So, you’d think with my cards laid on the table a few reviews ago when I said that period pieces weren’t really for me, so much so that a period film that is hoovering up awards wherever it goes didn’t hold my attention very well. But I am not one to dismiss a genre on one film, it usually takes at least two to turn me off a film.
Still, there was promise in Colette, Keira Knightley is front and centre, giving her chance to show off her often misused talent, Dominic West is also in it, who is a Yorkshireman and therefore superior by default and its director made the Oscar-winning Still Alice, so all looks rosy on the surface, maybe this could be the film that turns me onto the side of period dramas, or maybe it’ll reaffirm my feeling that they’re dry, very dull affairs for sexually-frustrated housewives, let’s find out.
In Paris at the turn of the 20th Century and a failing author, Willy, played by Dominic West falls in love with a country girl, Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Knightley. When Willy’s stuttering career threatens to put the both of them on the street, he turns to his wife to ghost-write his next novel, which becomes a surprise success, as Colette starts to realise being an un-credited writer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Remember those two possible outcomes I listed before the story summary, of course you do, it’s probably still on screen, well lets just say I’m swaying more towards the latter conclusion.
The thing about these films is they’re so hard to critisise from any respectable level. I can say how much this film bored me to tears, to the point I was checking my watch at regular intervals, but fans of period dramas will just tell me that it ‘isn’t for me’ and that’s fair enough. I was lucky enough to be born white and male in a first world country, so most things are already made for me, I accept that not every film genre will be to my liking, but the thing about it is, there always seems to be something that I might enjoy hidden away underneath the faff and nonsense that comes with historical period settings.
Hidden away within Colette is a perfect allegory to be related to modern times, gender oppression and sexuality. No matter how boring the experience of the film was, I still found myself rooting for Colette, which I suppose is a point in its favour, but it helps that Willy is a self-satisfied, smug little tosser, thereby making Colette much more sympathetic, it doesn’t even really need to try.
As I said, it feels like somewhere buried deep in Colette’s narrative is a period drama that can relate to modern issues, and I like that. BlacKkKlansman made my Top 10 last year for doing something similar, but that also had the added advent of being interesting and fun to watch even if you’re watching in a vacuum. Its on-the-nose allegories for modern times were made all the sweeter by the feeling that it had earned it, whereas Colette never gets that far, instead giving us a bland story populated by bland characters, even if Colette was sympathetic, this wasn’t because of her character, it was because of the actions of another character, there are insinuations that Colette has more in the brain department than she is given credit for, but its never properly explored.
I could go on all day about how films such as Colette and The Favourite are well-directed, well-acted and generally nice looking, but that doesn’t change the fact that my eyes glaze over about half an hour into each film, which can never be a good thing.
I understand that they aren’t made for me, and that’s fine. I gave them a good chance and that’s all that can be asked, but I never feel engaged with any films of their ilk, so I suppose they shall go on my list of things that ‘Just Aren’t For Me’ whose current occupants include: anything Michael Bay has done, and being stuck in a conversation with a family member you haven’t seen for a while and don’t particularly like.
In conclusion, if you get a kick out of Colette, that’s fine, and I’m happy they have an audience, as they’re clearly made with love and passion, however, this film, like The Favourite before it, failed to draw me into the genre, in fact, it probably even drew me in less than The Favourite, which at least had some quirky stand-out moments, whereas Colette is like having porridge for breakfast, it’s competent and gets everything right where it should, but it’s as interesting as a game of golf during the paint-drying appreciation weekend.