Coco Before Chanel Review

In Coco Before Chanel [COCO], Audrey Tautou [ATAUT] demonstrates once again why she can be considered one of the best French actresses around. As the title implies, Tautou portrays the early life of the woman before she became the fashion maven and cultural icon.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel lived one of the most adventurous lives of the early 20th Century, inspiring countless biographies.  But like many who make a mark in life, her beginnings were anything but glamorous.  After her mother’s death, Chanel’s father abandoned both she and her sister by dropping them off at an orphanage.  The two quickly learned to fend for themselves by singing in nightclubs and befriending rich society men.  While her sister is waiting for someone to marry, Chanel manages to endear herself to rich society figure Etienne Balsan and charms her way into his vast estate.   

Coco begins to make a name for herself designing hats for Balsan’s society lady friends, and she finds herself managing many orders when word gets around.  Tensions arise with Balsan as he wants her to play the role of his little lady.  Not only does she spurn his plans, but she also begins to coach women to dress with more class and less flair while she herself donned men’s attire most of the time.  Refusing to confirm to the norm, Coco begins to see women as prisoners in their own clothes.  Her mission becomes apparent.  She is to liberate herself and all of female kind from gaudy, overdone clothing. 

While residing at Balsan’s estate, Chanel meets Britisher Arthur “Boy” Capel, played by Alessandro Nivola [ANIVO] of Junebug.  Capel becomes her biggest fan and the love of her life, despite the fact he chooses to marry another.  With his help, Chanel manages to become independent and have her own house of fashion.  Capel’s tragic death in an auto accident devastates her.  It is said that she never recovered and remained unmarried for the rest of her life.  That is not to say, she wasn’t romanced, Chanel had dramatic affairs which all influenced her fashions.

Tautou brings a fascinating depth to this figure that already inspired much fascination.  Through Tautou’s nuanced acting, you can see that Chanel was determined to live a life with no boundaries.  She is clearly a woman who is capable of doing anything to get what she wants.  But, in Tautou’s hands, Chanel is so charming that most are happy to eat out of her hands.

The story is also progressed by Chanel’s attire as it seems she gets closer and closer to her understated style with each scene.  Ultimately, Chanel reaches such heights, that her first fashion show became and international affair and made her well loved figure in Britain and the U.S.  The film ends shortly before she gets into her fame.  A well-paced, smartly directed film, Coco Before Chanel is much more than a biopic.  It is a marker on how one woman revolutionized 20th Century dress. 

Coco Before Chanel comes to limited release on September 25th, 2009.  


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By HSXniknak on Friday, September 25, 2009 @ 12:47 PM        2177 views

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