English Title: Coco Before Chanel
Original Title: Coco avant Chanel
Language: French, English
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writers: Anne Fontaine, Camille Fontaine, Edmonde Charles-Roux
To be frank, this biographic film about legendary Gabrielle Chanel is disappointedly plain and perfunctory although it has a Chanelesque panache in its appearance and hardware. For me the dialogue is poorly written, full of clichés which could be easily eavesdropped during any cheap romantic chick flick.
As it is a film about Chanel (especially as the title itself suggests that it’s a film about her life before global success), the importance is to underline the uniqueness inside her which would bring her the later prestige fame, unfortunately the payoff of the film is her two bog-standard relationship both as a mistress, which eludes the most intriguing question, how could she manage to infuse her offbeat talent into the fashion business at her time? The film skimps a larger portion of it (which we could only witness from her intermittent scenes with Emilienne, an underperformed Emmanuelle Devos).
Audrey Tautou did a great job to showcase Coco’s pride and fragile in the same shot, as for two supporting lovers, Alessandro Nivola is handsome enough, but with a rather wooden performance, the chemistry between the lovebirds is far from convincing, which directly hampers the whole keynote of the film and demotes Coco’s personal mien as well. On the contrary the ordinary-looking Benoit Poelvoorde deserves more recognition for his rough but more empathized interpretation as the rich womanizer, Baron Balsan.
The fancy costumes of the film are worth appraising and it doesn’t matter if you are in fashion business or not. But we are not watching a documentary or a fashion show, it is beyond its power to save the film itself from being a mediocre one.