Stifling the Amélie twinkle that made her the darling of international cinema, Audrey Tautou furrows her brow and plays it grave as the formidable Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, saloon singer turned style magnate. This sumptuously shot biography focuses mostly on the years leading up to Chanel’s first shop in Paris, depicting young Coco as driven and shrewd as she insinuates herself into the bed of a wealthy socialite and makes the most of his social connections in her quest to be an actress … which didn’t exactly pan out. Both Tautou and filmmaker Anne Fontaine (The Girl From Monaco) face an uphill battle with a heroine who does nothing to endear herself to anyone, but that chilly self-preservation might be part of Coco’s appeal. Truthfully, though, her personal relationships are uninteresting; we see cinematic romances all the time. The best scenes—and there are too few of them—show the seeds of 20th-century fashion taking root, as we watch Coco’s black, unsmiling eyes size up the antiquated rules of style—and then we see her nimble hands rewrite them.
Director: Anne Fontaine
Producer: Caroline Benjo, Philippe Carcassonne, Carole Scotta and Simon Arnal
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain, Emmanuelle Devos, Régis Royer, Etienne Bartholomeus, Yan Duffas, Fabien Béhar, Roch Leibovici, Jean-Yves Chatelais, Pierre Diot, Vincent Nemeth, Bruno Abraham-Kremer, Marie-Bénédicte Roy and Émilie Gavois-Kahn