Focusing on Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the Parisian author responsible for her husband’s literary success, Wash Westmoreland‘s “Colette” features a towering performance from Keira Knightley, who plays the legendary writer with such warmth and fiery feminism, with a story that easily draws parallels with today’s world.
Colette’s marriage to the well-off Willy (a slyly playful and equally up to the task Dominic West), is a challenge to both her feminist ideals and definition of what love truly means. He is an author of somewhat limited talent that takes his wife’s ideas to write about the fictional Claudine, a character filled with sexual freedom and uproarious adventures that spark a fury in the French literary world. Of course, after the initial success, Willy wants more books to be written, and endeavors to build not just an empire around this promiscuous and daring female character, but to solidify the literary reputation he’s been craving for years.
“Colette” is about a strong woman trying to separate herself from the pack and explores the gender inequalities of the time. Knightley nails her performance down with the kind of passion and attention-to-detail not many actresses can exude on-screen. The continuous evolution of Colette requires subtle and nuanced changes in this demanding role and Knightley more than meets the challenge with some of the most exhilarating work of her career.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Knightley about the film, the feminist messages at its center, and the “Colette’s” similarities to society today.