Sunday 20 January 2019

Film of the week: Colette

Cert 15A; Opens this Wednesday

Keira Knightley, Dominic West and Aiysha Hart in Wash Westmoreland's 'Colette'
Keira Knightley, Dominic West and Aiysha Hart in Wash Westmoreland's 'Colette'
Kiera Knightley and Denise Gough in 'Colette'

Misogyny is a societal issue more than an individual one and a slightly skewed focus on that is perhaps the main downfall of Wash Westmoreland's biopic of French Belle Epoque star author Colette. However it is an engaging, interesting and pertinent story, beautifully shot and costumed and with two great lead performances.

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) was a young country girl when she married sleek Parisian roue, Willy (Dominic West). Innocent but clever and open-minded, at the behest of her mother (Fiona Shaw) she learned to make the circles in which her husband moved work for her. The French have never been especially liberal where equality of the sexes was concerned and at the end of the 19th Century it seemed not only acceptable but advisable for Willy to take the credit for his wife's novel. Who, after all, would want a book by a woman?

Everyone it turned out and Willy merrily accepted the glory. Colette accepted it too, however, so it feels too simplistic for the film to portray Willy as the main culprit, albeit a very charming one.

West is a great match to what is one of Knightley's best and most likeable performances.

Although the film takes too long to tell a thin enough part of the story, their complex marriage and Colette's sexuality are played really well, There's a light touch to the whole thing that works to make this enjoyable and engaging viewing. ★★★ Aine O'COnnor

 

RBG

Club Cert; Now showing, IFI

Sometimes on any journey the tendency is to focus on how much ground is left to be covered, but sometimes it's really good to pause and appreciate how far we have come.

This excellent documentary by Betsy West and Julie Cohen looks at the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the quiet powerhouse who has for more than half a century been at the forefront of the battle for equality.

It sounds dry, but the American Supreme Court justice with the pop icon moniker Notorious RBG is not only a fascinating subject, but a tremendously engaging one.

There's a particularly lovely moment towards the end where the tiny 84-year old giggles when she is shown the Saturday Night Live version of herself. It is absolutely not accurate, she says, but it is funny.

Because of the cases and causes she has fought during her legal career, RBG is regarded as a liberal rottweiler. But the real woman, while superhumanly driven, is reserved in manner and beliefs; her crusade has not been a political one, so much as a profound belief in fairness and equality.

She graduated from law school in 1957 as one of the top students, even though she not only had a baby at home but a husband who had cancer.

But not a single law firm in New York employed women then, so RBG had to begin breaking the barriers that blocked the way.

She has been instrumental in changing so much of what we now take for granted; this insight into the woman behind the law is utterly charming. ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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