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Review of Coco Before Chanel

Coco Before Chanel is an emotionally sophisticated movie with a mostly unsophisticated plot, so depending on your tastes for storytelling you will either be engaged or bored to tears. I give the film full marks for portraying nontraditional relationships without falling back on emotional cliches and histrionics. Granted, this would be more noteworthy if this were a Hollywood film, but it's done well and I appreciated the obvious effort put into not having the characters act like 13 year old schoolgirls.

Perhaps less praiseworthy is the notion that a movie about a woman searching for her place in the world needs to revolve around the men in her life, which this film embraces, but by doing so gives the audience a glimpse into the rigid social structures of male power that ruled the times Coco lived in and, as the film postulates, represent the genesis of her style and design ethos of effortless elegance. In this case the phallocentric conceit works in the films favor giving the narrative a bit of lift

Audrey Tautou is fantastic, adding intrigue and sensitivity to a character who is for the most part cold, selfish, and sullen and she brings to life the pride and strength that carry her character through the many indignities and moral compromises that lead to her future success without disguising her self absorption and willingness to use people as anything other than what it is- a survival instinct.

All that said, this is a movie who's story is told in furtive glances and raised eyebrows, and has only a tentative relationship to the world of high fashion. The drama you might expect from the early life of such a pivotal figure in fashion's history is told with a minor score and may not be what the viewer might expect. The now classic Chanel basic black dress comes to mind as a relevant comparison.