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Coco Before Chanel movie poster

Coco Before Chanel: Movie Review

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Anne Fontaine
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Marie Gillain, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola

Released by: Sony Pictures

In Short: Audrey Tautou gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this compelling, emotional look at the formative years of fashion icon Coco Chanel.
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Coco Chanel’s Fight to the Top

With so many fashion-themed documentaries hitting screens this year (think Valentino: The Last Emperor and The September Issue), it seems inevitable that a feature film would soon follow. And it has with Coco Before Chanel, the beautifully told film that explores the early life of iconic French haute couture designer Coco Chanel.

This French-with-English subtitles biography is a wonderful movie, masterfully told by director Anne Fontaine. The first thing she did right was to cast the wonderful Audrey Tautou (Amélie, A Very Long Engagement, The Da Vinci Code) in the lead role. Tautou's incredibly expressive face and slim figure are perfection in the role, as she takes us from Coco's poverty-stricken beginnings as a saloon singer and seamstress on the hard road to eventually becoming the queen of the Parisian fashion scene in the early 1920's.

Audrey Tautou and Marie Gillain in Coco Before Chanel Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel

It's an Oscar-worthy performance in an emotionally compelling film that is about much more than fashion. Coco Before Chanel explores the rigid class system that held sway in France (and all of Europe, really), and the lengths that women without family connections or money had to go to in order to stay alive. It's an important film for any modern women to experience, a stark remember that it wasn't so very long ago that we really were truly second-class citizens of the world.

The film follows two key relationships in Chanel’s early life, first as the mistress of a wealthy French landowner, and later as the paramour of another rich man, Arthur “Boy” Capel, the man who financed her first hat shop in Paris. As Boy, Alessandro Nivola is swooningly handsome and totally charming; together he and Tautou create a romance that is unforgettable.

Add in the incredible clothes that make Coco Before Chanel a visual feast that any self-respecting fashionista will adore, and the sum total is a movie that is trés chic in every way.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

PKR072709 Updated: (09/25/09 AR)

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