Coco Before Chanel - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Coco Before Chanel Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2010
The plot is too conventional and feels somehow incomplete when it comes to showing what was exactly so special about the character that propelled her into recognition and fame, but this is a decent film with some strong performances and a gracious score.
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2011
Another biopic of the fashion template Coco Chanel, this French language film romanticizes the life of a woman who favored simplicity in her style, leading to a feminization of rebellion in the fashion world, and in women's every day life.Still, though Chanel was a prominent figure, she is misrepresented time and time again as a romantic, a career woman, and a realist, when in reality she prostituted herself, and worked as a Nazi sympathizer and traitor towards the French. This inaccuracy, though blaring, didn't annoy me as much as the way this film is plotted, focusing on Chanel's early life, before fame came to her. Chanel is never seen past the thirties, transfixed into an immortal portrait of a rags to riches story. Chanel's life broadened so much more in the coming years, and it would have been nice to watch Tatou, such a resilient figure in French cinema, overcome the issues of Chanel's youth and rise to the occasion as a sort of matriarch to the female French population. We see a fragment of this at the end, but never the true extent of her success, the transformation she goes through to be a powerhouse, no longer the fragile little orphan of her prior youth. Tatou, such a great beauty and gamine presence, is so amazingly strong and independent minded in her take on the giant, but I wish there wasn't so much emphasis on Boy Capel throughout, and more on her actual life. This all felt like an ill fated love affair, when Chanel actually had many lovers in her lifetime, including Igor Stravinsky. It was beautifully shot and acted, I just believe the execution had something to be desired.
Super Reviewer
June 5, 2010
Beautifully shot and a good introduction into the early years of Coco Chanel. I have to admit I knew nothing at all about her.
Audrey Tautou suits the role so well, I could now not imagine her any other way. A good true story about a strong and inspirational woman who rose way above her circumstances.
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2010
I was very intrigued at the idea of watching this, first of all, I love Audrey Tautou. Second I love that period. Thirdly, I do love the sharp simplicity of Chanel's designs.
I love the production design. The costumes were gorgeous and the cinematography was impeccable. But I think some of the pacing within the story lacked. I didn't even mind the gigantic jumps in time towards the end. But it didn't quite have a compelling nature as we saw her straddled between the two important men in her life (no rude pun intended there).
However, other than that it was stylish and gorgeous. I do wish that we could have seen more of the visual style influence. Chanel's style was very clean cut, as opposed to the natural Rococco-ish fashion before it and I would have like to see what inspired that when it was certainly not the rage.
Super Reviewer
October 15, 2010
The lovely, charming Audrey Tautou has graduated into a full-blown, versatile actress. This is a film that challenges her to move beyond the mannerisms and characterizations that won her international acclaim, and she responds. She creates a hard-nosed feminist, whose smile, though still delightful, fails to predicate itself on its ability to be enjoyed by others; it's a smile for its own sake. This performance makes me think she'd be a perfect Dagny Taggart.
The script and the story are less compelling than Tautou, and we never really see Chanel creating, forming, or even the slight burgeoning of the company that would bear her name. This seems like a let-down, and there was certainly room for this story within the film.
Overall, the film's star carries it and makes up for whatever flaws the script and director may present.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2010
Coco Chanel is definitely one of the most important female figures to come out of France in recent years but, honestly, her life before founding fashion house Chanel isn't very interesting.

With COCO AVANT CHANEL, we are treated to a series of bland (but exquisitely shot) vignettes, ocassionally splashed with Coco's creativity and a few flashes that show just what a genius Chanel was. It's sad when the movie ends, because with that last, glorious scene, you feel like it was just starting to take flight.
Super Reviewer
½ February 4, 2010
Perhaps the most memorable thing about Coco Before Chanel is that it is incredibly forgettable. You are left with the experience of having watched something, but that is about it. Audrey Tautou really gives a good performance, but it is not enough to hold up an entire movie. There also seemed to be a lack of style for a movie about a fashion designer. I think the film would have been much better had it been about Coco's entire life. Her younger years just are not that interesting. It kind of leaves you wondering why someone felt to the need to make a movie about them. The film is not bad or unpleasent by any means, but it is not great. It just seems very typical and more than bit boring.
Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2009
Director-writer Anne Fontaine attempts to portray how young Gabrielle Chanel transformed herself from lowly would-be orphan to the epitome of style and class, via the salons and boudoirs of the Belle Epoque - that was really interested story to know all about her before she became famous fashion designer.
Fontaine's screenplay is more thoughtful than those looking for a classier Sex and the City might have expected, toying with loss, identity, ambition and compromise.
Audrey Tautou's Chanel is a complex figure, emotionally broken at an early age, yet impish, daring, challenging and very much her own woman, even as her relationships leave her short-changed.
As in Ameile, the actress is bewitching, seductive yet fragile, full of resolve but achingly vulnerable. Fontaine acknowledges that while Coco's will to succeed might have stemmed from being abandoned by her dad, it is two key men - figure father and patron, Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde), and the true love who shattered her already damaged heart, Boy Capel (Alessandro Nivola) - that give her the support and leverage to fulfil her ambition, first as a milliner, and later as the fashion designer par excellence we all know. Poelvoorde and Nivola work hard with underwritten roles, possibly necessarily so, their almost emblematic function keeping Chanel front and centre.
Super Reviewer
½ June 27, 2009
Could have been Audrey's La Vie En Rose oscar winner, instead is tedious and tepid. I wanted to see Coco as Channel with her wartime Nazi scandal and all her glamour. Still a fairly interesting look at Coco's rise.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ November 13, 2009
"Coco Before Chanel" is what you'd expect from a mainstream French film biography. Gorgeous cinematography, art direction and costumes, a soupcon of intelligence in the screenplay (but not too much to scare off the bourgeois audience), and a substantial portion of melodrama -- including of course the tragic and untimely death of a major character with whom the protagonist is in love. Vive l'amour!

Last year we had "La Mome" (released in the States as "La Vie en Rose," which landed Marion Cotillard a much-deserved Oscar), and this year we have "Coco." Mainstream bourgeois cinema is alive and well in the country that invented it.

Audrey Tautou does a reasonably good job as the legendary fashion designer and luxury-products pioneer Coco Chanel, but she certainly won't be getting an Oscar. She exhibits three or four different emotions in this two-dimensional film, and she looks great doing it. I learned a few things about Ms. Chanel, such as that she was an uneducated orphan who had to struggle up from the gutter by any means necessary, including being mistress to a wealthy man (read: prostitute). I also didn't know that she brazenly broke social taboos by never marrying.

It was a pleasure watching this woman develop her revolutionary approach to women's clothing. The film probably overstates it, but there is good reason to claim that Coco Chanel invented the 20th century in terms of women's clothing and thereby gave the modern woman a whole new outlook on her own capabilities. It was wonderful to see a young Coco raging about the idiocy of nineteenth-century corsets, for example. "You'd prefer not to breathe?" she bravely asks women of the haute bourgeoisie.

Director Anne Fontaine does a good job revealing the way 19th-century upper-class women were dressed up to do nothing but display their husbands' wealth. Women could barely walk under the weight of the dresses, petticoats, hats, gloves, jewelry and parasols they wore in 1890s France. Ms. Chanel, without a single person to guide her it seems, dreamed up a whole new world where women could actually move when they went out in public. This is an inspiring story. But the screenplay, co-written by Ms. Fontaine, has about as much depth as there would be if the Lifetime Channel had commissioned it. Enjoyable, yes, but not a work of art.
Super Reviewer
November 7, 2009
Even though I guess people were disappointed that it wasn't about Chanel's ascent to the top of the fashion world, it was still interesting. It's kinda nice that this movie wasn't about fashion even though I was looking forward to something like that. Instead it concentrates on a woman's persistence from her humble beginnings and doesn't just glaze over the difficult times. In this sense her story could have happened to anyone but that kind of humanizes her more. I like this movie because it's not afraid to back down from what it believes in. Kind of like Coco Chanel.
Super Reviewer
½ June 6, 2009
If their lives were that similar, I don´t know, but either bieng Chanel or Piaf, the movie is (almost) the same. Like Kyle Smith says (check critic review below), Anne Fontaine´s movie " begs to be compared to 'La Vie en Rose' ".

As happened to "La Vie en Rose", "Coco avant Chanel" is nothing but a typical drama like any typical Hollywood crap would be (it´s obvious that a car accident will happen when they are seeing off/saying goodbye). I´m being very honest when I say that after Chanel´s lover dies and we see a lot of "snapshots" of her work/life with a melty song in the background, I turned off the sound.


I know te movie is focused on Chanel´s life before the sucess, but after a very long view of her way to succeed, the movie suddenly jumps to her atelier in Paris as if right after leaving Étienne she had done it. Even having Boy lent her money, how did she really manage in the beginning in Paris? Why was her sister working with her? And, the most important, how and when she definitely became Mademoiselle Coco Chanel?

Super Reviewer
½ February 20, 2010
A fascinating look at the early life of one of France's most recognizable celebrities. Audrey Tautou (one of this viewer's very favorite actresses) plays this icon of the fashion world and pretty much nails the performance. Ever the free spirit, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel rebelled against the fashion of the day with all of it's layers and frills and embellishments and corsets and revolutionized women's fashions forever. This biopic concentrates on her early life and her involvement with the two men in her life who set the stage for her later success. The supporting cast was excellent. Benoit Poelvoorde, as Ettienne Balsan, shared the narrative arc as her boorish, rich lover who introduced her to Paris society, and was moved by her flaunting of convention. Alessandro Nivola as "Boy" Capel reminded this viewer visually of Errol Flynn. The sets and costumes were lavish and definitely became a focal point, but for this viewer, watching Ms Tautou inhabit the persona of Coco Chanel is the best reason to watch this.
Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2009
In "Coco Before Chanel," Gabrielle(Audrey Tautou) and her sister Adrienne(Marie Gillain) are seamstresses by day and singers by night, specializing in a song that gains Gabrielle the nickname Coco and hoping to make it big in Paris. Even as Adrienne is swept off her feet by a baron, Coco reluctantly sidles up to Etienne Balsan(Benoit Poelvoorde), an enormously wealthy owner of horses, who gets them an audition that does not go well. With her sister having left her for greener pastures, Coco shows up unannounced at Balsan's castle in the country.

I recall having seen another movie long ago on the early life of Coco Chanel called "Chanel Solitaire" with Timothy Dalton in the role of Arthur Capel which in this latest version is played by Alessandro Nivola. Despite both movies ending in about the same place, "Coco Before Chanel" is the superior version in its acting and photography, even if it is a tad slow at times. It does make a very good case for why fashion matters while connecting the personal and the political. In modernizing clothes, Coco Chanel(with a little help from World War I) changed what was fashionable from what pleased only men's eyes to what made women comfortable while still looking great, as the person herself constantly reinvented herself. Her most important idea was to get ride of the abominable corset. The practical clothing made it possible for women to enter the workplace with Coco leading the way into a new world.
Super Reviewer
July 19, 2010
"Coco avant Chanel" somehow failed to elevate to the next level. Not Audrey Tautou's fault - she does a decent job with poise and glamour as called for. While the film was slow going, there is the chic costumes to hold on to your attention at the very least.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2010
I don't know why they needed another Coco Chanel movie. (For one thing, the Shirley MacLaine version was the best because it was the most well done and put together. You don't really need another one.) This French version seemed to only rehash what was already said in the 2008 version except it put a different spin on it and made Coco seem more like a whore who used men to get what she wanted. I just liked the other version better because Coco was more of a character you could root for while in this movie I didn't care for her as much.
Super Reviewer
½ May 17, 2010
Not the gushy fashionista fairytale i was expecting, but instead a thoughtful drama about an independant woman living ouside her time sartorially but stuck in it socially and financially.Probably better watched if you don't have the slightest interest in how she came up with a thousand quid nylon quilted handbag.
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2010
It reveals what we've never seen of Grabrielle, and as always an excellent role from Audrey Tautou. A little slow, but worth it.
Super Reviewer
½ September 14, 2009
Yet another uninspiring biopic, in my eyes better suited for TV consumption. Even though it starts from her early years, there is no link to how she got her inspiration nor how her creativity developed. A more suited titled should have been Coco Before She Was Interesting.
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2014
Coco Before Chanel, literally is about Coco before she started her own Chanel line. I like the acting, very natural and fitting, exactly what I would expect real life Chanel to behave. I like the individualist messages, you gotta work hard to achieve your dreams and don't let the others stop you. I like the idea of Chanel meeting the man who appreciate her unique ideas, like attract likes was well reinforced there. However, the plot seem fragmented and could use some polishing. The costumes were beautiful and the set was beautifully designed.
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