Coco Before Chanel
So this is where Diane Keaton gets her style inspiration.

Theatrical Release Date: 09/25/2009 (USA), 04/22/2009 (France)
Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain, Emmanuelle Devos

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. She built a fashion empire and is revered in the industry. Of course, she had to start somewhere and that’s the premise of “Coco Before Chanel”. A young girl dreaming of becoming a singer in Paris, of finding a way to make it on her own in a male dominated society, Gabrielle became Coco and used the connections she made and her interest in fashion to become the woman everyone knows of now.

To tackle such an icon, director Anna Fontaine went with Audrey Tautou and it seemed to be a natural choice. Tautou’s feisty playfulness, so evident in roles such as her breakout with “Amélie”, lent itself well to portraying a woman that had the courage and determination to rise up from nothing and become everything. She didn’t get a chance to explore any new acting territory but was a nice fit for the role and what it asked of her.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a film about a French woman if there weren’t two men vying for her heart and this time around, it’s Benoît Poelvoorde and Alessandro Nivola. Poelvoorde plays a rich baron, who introduces Coco to high society but their relationship is much more out of appearances than passionate love – though it’s clear they both feel very strongly for one another and for what each were able to bring out in the other. The true passion belonged to Coco and Nivola’s character, an up and coming businessman. Their love is the kind that romance novels are based on and the chemistry between the pair was quite nice.

The production value of the film was good, especially in the costuming department which is so important to a film about a fashion icon. Fontaine definitely hit her apparent mark of examining Coco’s life before she shot to superstardom – which presents perhaps the only caveat to the film: Don’t expect to find out about Chanel’s rise to fashion prominence. The film is strictly concerned with her life before that time period, in seeing what kind of experiences and relationships shaped the icon we are all familiar with today.

And while there really aren’t any deficiencies, there’s also not much new to be discovered here. “Coco Before Chanel” follows a script like it’s paint by numbers, which is a little odd because it’s a story of a real person but I suppose you can’t have a cliché until it happens often enough, right? Still, all the elements were well done and it was interesting film to watch so I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. If you’re looking for another period piece with all the predictable elements, you’ll get what you want and it’s delivered competently. If you want something more challenging, look elsewhere on the DVD shelves.