Monday, November 30, 2009

movie monday: Coco Before Chanel

One of my new goals is to start seeing movies in the theater again. My specific plan is to treat myself to a film every Friday night at the Spectrum, the local, independent art house theater, which is conveniently located next to the New World Bistro Bar, my favorite restaurant in town, where I'll treat myself to a glass of wine after the show. I started my new tradition last Friday, and I had so much fun. I'll post my movie reviews here on Monday mornings.

The movie: Coco Before Chanel is aptly titled; it follows Coco Chanel from her time in an orphanage, but it stops where most people become familiar with her story. The film stars the delightful Audrey Tatou as Coco. Perhaps my favorite thing about Coco Before Chanel was it's honesty. I confess to loving the feel-good rags to riches biopics as much as anyone, but it's rare to see a biographical film provide hope with honesty and without sappiness. Most of the film is not feel good. It's hardly depressing, but it is real. Coco didn't have an easy life. She and her sister were orphans, and they fought for opportunities. Coco makes some decisions she may not be proud of, but she doesn't regret them. She doesn't have the dream of becoming a fashion designer from day one, just as few of us truly know what we'll end up doing from the beginning. Her skills, experience and desire for self-sufficiency slowly evolve to lead her to it.

The film is a little slow, but it's similar to the pace of her life. It seems like it's not going anywhere for awhile, and if you didn't know what Chanel is, you might think that. I personally thought the subtitles were a little fast. My French is decent enough to understand some of the dialogue, but I often read the subtitle before the characters had begun to speak their lines. The beautiful lulls of dialogue featured the next subtitle, which threw off the pace a bit for me.

The beauty of the film comes in its last half hour, when it becomes clear the slowness was in fact subtlety leading to a mesmerizing and poetic final half-hour. It's the kind of film one might be tempted to stop watching if she were at home, but ends up loving. It truly is a film that is the sum of it's parts. It works as a whole, but it's not necessarily riveting from the opening frame.

It's a beautifully feminist film; it's an honest look at one woman's struggle and journey for her place in the world. It's not a film with universal appeal, but it is a fantastic, beautiful, and inspiring film. If you like foreign films, historical films, biopics and strong female leads, then I highly recommend this film.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Release date: September 2009 in the U.S. Here's a map of where this film is currently playing! There's no word on dvd release yet.
Source: I saw it at my local, independent, art house movie theater


  1. Glad you liked it - I am really looking forward to seeing this one!

  2. Great review! I also LOVE your plan of arthouse theater followed by a glass of wine. Perfect Friday night!


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