Coco Chanel is acceptable as a typical Lifetime Channel romance that happens to be played in historical costumes.
Do't get your hopes up for complex characterizations or a spectacular clothing feast for the eyes.The story is organized as a series of flashbacks. The designer is shown making her comeback in 1954, after more than a decade away from the industry. Her first collection falls flat, but a second wins over critics for an upbeat ending.
Iconic actress Shirley MacClaine doesn't quite chew the scenery, but her portrayal lacks nuance by emphasizing only three traits: Chanel was strong, stubborn, and creative.
Barbora Bobulova occupies the most camera time. The story dwells on the young Gabrielle's affairs with Etienne Balsan and Boy Capel.
Sagamore Stevenin plays Balsan as a feckless officer and scion of a wealthy family in the tradition of Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy).
Olivier Sitruk is soulful as Capel, her great love.
Once he and Chanel fall in love, the story reeks of foreshadow. It's no surprise that he dies in a car accident as he is trying to get back to her, shortly after marrying the wrong woman.
I don't doubt that the designer lost the love of her life early, since her youth coincided World War I, a bloody war that ravaged a generation of Europeans. The device of his dying while returning to her side is melodramatic in the worst way.
Malcolm McDowell plays Marc Boucheir as a stuffy and unpleasant business associate and confidante.
It's hard to say why she would have kept him around for so long, except that MacClaine portrays Coco as churlish herself.
Her best line to Boucheir, as she gets into a cab, is, "Fashion is not just clothes. Fashion is everywhere."
In todays society obsessed with shallow celebrities and superficial appearances, those are words for our times.
This biopic emphasizes the designer's love life to the detriment of dazzling depictions of spectacular fashions or insights into what made Coco tick and her fashions enduring.
I would have liked to know more about her creative impulses and the details of how she rose from shop girl to corporate fashion empress.
As an historical romance, this biopic offers a pleasant two hours. It disappoints as an insightful depiction of fashion icon whose style sense formed the fashion ethos of an era.
To learn more about the influence on our times of the fabulously creative woman, the fashion and music of the 1920s Jazz Era, check out 1920-Fashion-and-Music.com.
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