Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) is the latest in a string of biopics about the legendary fashion icon Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Set in the years prior to her reign as the queen of couture, the story follows Coco’s education both in art and in love.
When her father abandons young Coco and her sister at a monastery, Coco is forced to rely on her intelligence and aptitude as both a cabaret performer and a seamstress in order to make a life for herself. Along the way, she meets men of fame and fortune, falls in love and discovers her passion for style. Gone are the days of crinolines and lace, ruffles and fancy embellisments. Instead, Coco opts for the simple but elegant. As she discovers her talents, she changes the face of fashion for the 20th century and beyond.
Audrey Tatou’s performance as Coco was sublime. She becomes Coco Chanel seemingly without effort. The supporting cast included Benoît Poelvoorde as Chanel’s benefactor and lifelong friend Etienne Balsan, and Alessandro Nivola as Boy Capel, Chanel’s love interest and gave weight to the story of Chanel’s life before she found her fame in Paris.
Coco Avant Chanel only begins to scrape the surface of Chanel’s life, and as such, as biopics go, it was disappointing. The film does justice to her life prior to her remarkable career, but those looking to discover Coco’s inspirations and her rise to prominence will not find it here. In truth, I am much more interested in Coco Après Chanel.