12 October 2018 | richard-1787
Lovely to look at, but not thrilling to sit through at one stretch
This movie is truly beautiful to watch. Elegant period dress, recreations of turn-of-the-century Paris inside and out that had me wondering how they were achieved. And the acting by the two principles is truly first-rate.
Keira Knightley has it all and does it all as the title character. A truly beautiful performance, including some line-reading that was worthy of Shakespeare - which this screenplay most certainly is not. (See below.) She held me riveted in many a scene.
Not far behind her in the acting dept is Dominic West, who turns Willy into a real if very flawed human being. Modern literary history sees him through Colette's later eyes, so it dismisses him terribly, but here he comes off as a real charmer.
So what's not to like? A great deal, unfortunately. The script, at least through the first half of the movie, is paint by numbers: very obvious, very flat, very unrevealing. Though Knightley clearly could have conveyed anything, it doesn't do a good job of helping us to understand the very complex woman we see. Too often, it sounds like a summary of a Wikipedia biography of the author. What made her so interesting? What made her tick? What made her so remarkable? The script gives us no clue. Is it because the script was written by two men and, third billing, one woman? I don't buy that. Madame Bovary was written by a man, as were many other great female characters in literature. Perhaps the problem lies, at least in part, with the directing as well.
If you want to see this movie, I would wait until you can watch it at home, so you can pause it to do other things when you get bored or just want a break. Having to sit through all 111 minutes in a theater without a break was too much for me - though it did get more involving near the end. Kudos to Knightley and West, certainly, for doing a great job with their roles. But this was too much like a beautifully costumed and filmed history lesson, and not enough like an engaging story.