Colette

October 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough
Directed by: Wash Westmoreland (“Still Alice”)
Written by: Wash Westmoreland (“Still Alice”) and Richard Glatzer (“Still Alice”)

While mainstream audiences might associate two-time Academy Award nominee Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”) with her role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, just as many moviegoers probably consider her more recognizable from the handful of costume dramas she’s starred in during her career.

From the emotionally resonant 2005 adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” to the under-appreciated uniqueness of 2012’s “Anna Karenina,” Knightley is synonymous with characters who don modest muslin gowns and colorful Victorian-era silk dresses. It’s unfortunate, then, that her latest foray into the late 19th century isn’t as effective as her prior period pieces.

In “Colette,” Knightley stars as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, one of the most important voices in women’s literature ever to come out of France (notable works include Chéri and Gigi). The film introduces audiences to Colette as a young country girl who is whisked away to Paris by Willy (Dominic West), a charming and well-liked writer and struggling publishing house owner.

Living above their means in Paris, Willy, who manages a team of ghostwriters who churn out literature to sell to Belle Époque socialites, persuades Colette to write a coming-of-age novel about her teenage years and allow him to publish it under his name. When the book, Claudine at School, becomes a hit, Willy demands she continue writing (there are four novels in the Claudine series). This all occurs while her relationship with Willy deteriorates because of his refusal to credit her as the real author and the problems caused by their open marriage — which Colette uses as inspiration for her writing.

Directed and co-written by Wash Westmoreland (“Still Alice”), “Colette” is hitting theaters during a moment in our cultural history when many women, much like the film’s title character, are standing up for themselves against the oppression of toxic men. It’s a timely biopic on female empowerment — one that rests solely on the shoulders of Knightley and her insightful depiction of strength and desire for independence.

Where the film falters, however, is in Westmoreland’s script, which should have offered more narrative support from its secondary characters. Instead, “Colette” remains a loner as she confronts the unsustainable life she’s built with Willy and the romance she later establishes with Missy (Denise Gough), an androgynous partner who understands the frustration Colette feels from having to stay silent and unseen for so long — like a ghost floating around in literary limbo.

Although it’s a central message, Westmoreland gets a bit heavy-handed with his metaphors. In one scene, Colette is transfixed on a male mime singing soprano before the camera pulls back to reveal that he is lip-syncing a song actually being sung by a woman standing behind him. If we didn’t know any better, we might think “Colette” was trying to say something.

Still Alice

February 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart
Directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)
Written by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (Quinceañera)

At one point in “Still Alice,” Alice (Julianne Moore), a 50-year-old college professor suffering from a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, tells her husband John (Alec Baldwin) that she wishes she had cancer instead, citing the bravery people bestow upon cancer sufferers, wearing pink ribbons in their honor. Alzheimer’s only inspires pity and puts an immense burden on their loved ones, all while the sufferer’s life slips away one memory at a time. As a vibrant academic with a devoted husband, three grown children, and a personal life dedicated to reading, writing, and travel, its a fate the too-young Alice is horrified to confront.

Alice discovers her disease slowly at first, forgetting where she is during a jog. When her diagnosis is confirmed, Alice has the difficult task of not only breaking the news of her disease to her children (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish), but the chilling fact that this form of the disease is hereditary and there’s a test her children could take that comes with the knowledge that, if positive, there is a 100 percent certainty they too will develop the disease. What follows are scenes of Alice coming to grips with her fate, using her iPhone to quiz her memory daily and her webcam to record a video instructing her future self on how to commit suicide should her memory deteriorate too far.

Moore anchors the film with a heartbreaking performance, likely to finally nab her an Oscar, while Kristen Stewart–finally free of the banal “Twilight” franchise–reminds everyone she can be an engaging actress when given more to do than swoon. She gives the well-worn trope of the wayward daughter a little more depth than is written into the script. The rest of the cast, however, are as one-note as can be—which is fine, because this is Alice’s story, but it would be nice if a performer as intense and focused as Baldwin had more to do than play the sympathetic husband. Also, I can’t help but wonder if the film would have been more effective if Alice and her family weren’t well-to-do professionals with a beach house and university careers. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease no matter your income level, but what if Alice were a middle-class woman who couldn’t just stop working? Just a suggestion, Hollywood.