I’ve been going to movies by myself a lot here in Portland, and that is one of my sincerest pleasures so I don’t mind a bit. But now my bud Jonathan—actor, nerd, delight—has moved to town, and we are going to All The Films together, and when a shot reveals shirtless workers beautifully planing a floor in turn-of-the-century France we’re both minutely waving our hands and sotto warbling “Gustave Caillebotte’s The Floor Scrapers!”, which should give you a good indication of what we’re like at movies, and also what this movie is like! Colette! Fanciful gay Art History 101 biopic! The cinematic equivalent of curling up in a comfy chair in a silk bathrobe reading Tipping the Velvet! Jonathan, walking out of the theater: “Oh my god, I just had a wonderful time?” Me: “There is nothing wrong with a frothy, saucy picaresque.”
Colette is just so easy to watch, it brings everything right to you. Colette is graciously laying out a tray of powdering pastries in front of you going “Here I brought these for you!” and you’re like “Thank you I asked for these!” Om nom nomnomnom, delicious. This is a funny queer Belle Époque romp stuffed with salons and pantomime and overworked, unhinged authors, and that is what it is going to BE. At one point Dominic West performs some sort of spoken word rap on top of a table and is joined by a line of can-can dancers while Kiera Knightly makes eyes at a lady wearing trousers, who gets away with it because she’s nobility descended from Empress Joséphine. Just, fantastic, pile it on I love this.
Watching this reminded me of how I felt watching Ocean’s 8, because they’re both movies dyed in the wool with a type of simplified, ‘yeah babe!’ feminism. Sure there’s nothing exactly groundbreaking or sophisticated or interesting in its own rights about the politics this movie presents*, but you know what it’s a hellscape out there right now, and it can be real nice to escape into the kind of theater experience where lovely bold Colette smarting at her boisterous blowhard husband about how he’s hiding her artistic light under a misogynist bushel is presented like an old melodrama warmly inviting you to boo and hiss at the villain. I will, thank u for this opportunity. I have no problem with movies that just do loops on basic pot-boiler gender decency; they have their own stabilizing place in the march of progress, and are a relaxing reprieve from how I still have to watch so many new releases slightly on guard for blows from the pervasive, unthinking sexism that has dominated cinema for ages.
(*Except for something behind-the-scenes that I’ve been telling everyone about because you wouldn’t know and that’s what’s so novel and great about it: Colette, directed by a gay man from a script he co-wrote with his late husband, cast a trans actor in just a regular ol’ male-presenting role. Colette!)