COCO BEFORE CHANEL Review
I recently got a chance to see Anne Fontaine’s film Coco Before Chanel, which comes out to theaters this Friday, September 25, 2009.
The film follows the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (played by Audrey Tautou) before she became the iconic Coco Chanel. We learn about the two most important men in her life, Etienne Balsan (played by Benoît Poelvoorde), a rich racehorse owner, who became her lover, and Boy Capel (played by Alessandro Nivola), the love of her life, who helped her along the way.
The problem with films based on someone’s life is that sometimes they might end up boring. Let’s face it, not everyone’s life is interesting enough to become a movie and even if it is, the filmmaker needs to make sure they are telling a story and not just recounting events.
I think that Anne Fontaine achieved that. While Coco Before Chanel is based on a real story, the film would still work even if it wasn’t because it is so well put together. In fact, Coco Before Chanel is really a love story, a tragic one, but a love story none the less.
Of course the fact that Coco Chanel had an interesting life helps, but Anne Fontaine is able to bring out the human aspect and emotions of the story out, in such a way that you really connect with the characters. Even knowing about some of the tragedies that happen in Coco’s life, I still felt heartbroken when I saw them happen on screen.
The film also benefits from having a really remarkable cast. Audrey Tautou plays Coco Chanel with such grace and ease, it really feels like she is Coco Chanel. Now I might be biased since she is one of my favorite actresses, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be blown away by her performance.
Benoît Poelvoorde is the ideal Etienne Balsan. He balances Etienne’s free spirit with his soft side perfectly. Throughout the movie, you also see his feelings and attitude towards Coco change, which makes him very likeable.
One of my favorite thing from the film was Alessandro Nivola playing Boy Capel, Coco’s first love. First let’s talk about his speaking French. I was really impressed by how fluent and comfortable he seemed. It didn’t take anything away from his performance and wasn’t distracting at all, on the contrary, it made the character really charming. On top of it, his accent (which is really good) makes you fall in love with him. So Alessandro Nivola pretty much already has you with the whole speaking French and his cute accent… and then you add what I call “his stare.” Now I’m not sure how to describe it, but he had a way of looking at Coco Chanel in the movie that will make your knees melt. Alessandro Nivola deserves lots of praise for communicating so much with just a stare. I have to thank Anne Fontaine for putting it in the film.
I also want to mention Emmanuelle Devos, whom I really enjoyed. She plays Emilienne, the total opposite of Coco Chanel, but also her confidante. I think her character complemented the rest of the cast really well.
And finally, as I previously mentioned, Coco Before Chanel is really a love story, and Anne Fontaine is able to make the audience understand why the independent Coco Chanel finally ends up falling in love, and how the two men in her life influenced her to achieve her full potential.
I really enjoyed Coco Before Chanel greatly and even want to see it again. It had everything I was expecting, a good story, good actors, good director, and it left me thinking about it for a couple of days, which is always a good sign.
I would most definitely recommend it, especially if you are in the mood for a love story and/or want to learn more about Coco Chanel.
Title: COCO BEFORE CHANEL
Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola, Benoît Poelvoorde, Emmanuelle Devos, Marie Gillain
Synopsis: Audrey Tautou (THE DAVINCI CODE, AMELIE) plays the legendary “Coco” Chanel in an enthralling exploration of her early life before she rose to worldwide fame as the most celebrated fashion designer of the 20th Century. We meet the young Gabrielle Chanel, illegitimate daughter of a traveling salesman who learns to sew in a Catholic orphanage before following her singing ambitions lead her to a cabaret club. It is here where Chanel earns the nickname Coco and also where she catches the eye of several high society gentlemen who would ignite her passion and become instrumental in the development of her remarkable career.
Release Date: September 25, 2009
Watch the trailer