For an actress known for one-dimensional acting, Keira Knightley makes a fine stab at being the feminist LGBT icon Colette, and co-star Dominic West is great as Willy, her rakish husband. Knightley being almost permanently stuck in the role of Knightley doesn’t distract too much from the enjoyment of watching their on screen relationship and their fettered publishing successes in fin-de-siècle
The scenery, the hurly burly, the can-can dancers, the references to a newly built Eiffel tower are all good. Fiona Shaw as Sido makes a fantastic mother to the wayward Colette (in contrast with our lead, she must surely be one of
Indeed, Willy and Collette’s relationship would be termed ‘bohemian’ if the labelled had yet been invented; in fact, it may have been them who came up with the association. Certainly, their ménage à trois must have surely been a shock to polite Parisian society at this time. As the course of the film progresses, Colette increasingly turns to same sex relationships and one in particular, with the transgender Marquis (Denise Gough), as her relationship with the egotistical Willy flounders (a little aside here; whatever may be levelled at poor old Keira for her acting, she does pull off a tuxedo).
Championing Colette's right to live as she chooses, with whom she chooses and in command of her literary authorship are all worthwhile and timely themes to explore. On the whole, however, I found the film lacking in depth and authenticity. That wasn’t only due to the actors’ performances. The film went saggy in the middle: where we were gearing up for the action to get more fast-paced, it seemed to slow down so that the real action happened almost as a post-script. It was interesting to see the real Collette, as a characterful and dynamic woman, who fully looks like she lived this story.