Based on a true story, Colette follows Keira Knightley’s title character as she meets and marries an older man (Dominic West’s Willy) and begins writing a series of books under his name – with the movie detailing Colette’s ongoing exploits as a ghost writer and, eventually, her salacious romantic entanglements and their impact. Filmmaker Wash Westmoreland, working from a script written with Richard Glatzer and Rebecca Lenkiewicz, has infused Colette with a run-of-the-mill and almost generic quality that grows increasingly oppressive as the cookie-cutter storyline unfolds, with the relatively promising bent of the movie’s opening half hour, due mostly to Knightley’s predictably winning, personable performance, eventually rendered moot by a preponderance of less-than-fresh attributes. Westmoreland’s bizarre refusal to allow any traces of authenticity to creep into the production is as problematic as one might’ve feared, and there’s little doubt that the picture’s blatant, shameless prestige-project sheen becomes more and more difficult to overlook – with the film even climaxing with a ready-for-the-Oscars impassioned monologue by Knightley’s one-note character. It’s clear, too, that Westmoreland’s bland take on the material undercuts the impact of the more subversive elements that eventually begin to crop up, which is a shame, certainly, given the contemporary and pointedly relevant nature of Colette’s story and her sexual escapades. The end result is a trying-way-too-hard piece of work that doesn’t work on any real, palpable level, and it’s ultimately impossible not to wonder just what drew Knightley to yet another in a long line of period-set dramas.

*1/2 out of ****

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