Rule-busting bisexual writer Colette gets the attention she deserves in the new film from out director Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice), set to be released September 21. Keira Knightley steps into the titular role in Colette, as the woman behind the Claudine novels who enthralled Belle Epoque-era Paris — even if her husband, Willy (played by Dominic West), took all of the credit. Colette was brash, sexy, and way ahead of her time, and her early novels, written under Willy’s name, depicted a young woman’s sexual awakening with kink and verve.
The biopic begins with Colette’s marriage to Willy, her move to Paris from the country, and her rise as a star of any salon she attended. Westmoreland’s film also follows Colette's sexual awakening as she proclaims and acts on her attraction to other women. Eventually, she and her husband embark on a polyamorous relationship, during which she takes female lovers.
Colette finally settles on one lover in particular, the wealthy Missy (Denise Gough), who dresses in men’s clothes and uses male pronouns.
But beyond portraying Colette’s lively personal life, the film is also a feminist treatise. Not only did Willy take credit for a woman’s work, but he said he had to because a woman's work wouldn't sell — a familiar refrain even today.
“Female writers don’t sell. Female directors don’t make films because they’re not going to make money. You get that all the time,” Knightley said in a new featurette on the film. “And we do what we’re told and we follow the rules of our society. And [Colette] very much broke them.”
Referring to the ongoing argument about whether or not women’s art will sell, Knightley said, “She would be as extraordinary today as she was back then.”
Watch the featurette below: