Last night I saw Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) at The Paris on W 58th St. It was my second movie in New York-the first being a preview screening of the overall disappointing Zombieland, save for a brilliant cameo midway through and a short but entertaining climax-but this was my first movie going with someone else!
Structurally Coco avant Chanel is a fairly typical biopic. I would have liked to see more direct correspondence between her maturing process, early interests and her career. I thought the transition from her life "before" her professional career began and her successful business was too abrupt. She's lingering in the sidelines, occasionally altering dresses, pushed aside by the people of higher class then all of a sudden, she's a very proud, confident women wearing pearls and making elegant hats. Then the film cuts to her making clothes and presenting them at a show at some later, unspecified time. Yes, the film is Coco before Chanel, but a greater sense of wholeness would have been appreciated.
The film lagged in some parts making myself wonder at times what the point of this all was. It's a problem when your audience becomes indifferent to your titular character, and perhaps a reason for that is I just didn't feel that Coco was a fully fleshed out character at all. The filmmakers and Audrey Tautou as Coco, have a very subdued take on Coco. She's quiet much of the film and Tautou just sits there with her half smile and dark, unblinking eyes. There were plenty of interesting characters in the film, I just kept losing interest in the main one. Adding to the film's pervasive dullness, the cinematography was rather mediocre throughout most of the film. There were a few standout shots especially those of Coco alone in her environment including some beautiful work at the end of the film with Coco sitting on a staircase surrounded by mirrors.
Despite being weak in narrative and overall impact, I would say it is worth seeing, but I'd recommend it for a mid-afternoon DVD viewing on a rainy day rather than a theatrical experience. The film actually piqued my interest enough to make me want to see the recent Shirley MacLaine made-for-tv-film, Coco Chanel. I would hope it is more uniquely structured and more able to convey Coco as a pioneering spirit...with a little more spirit.