Coco Chanel is a tv-drama that tells the story of the young Gabrielle Chanel (roughly the same story as in Coco avant Chanel) and her designer comeback in the 1950’s. As for being a made-for-tv production I have to say it’s pretty decent. Not too much cheese and with better acting and higher production values than similar tv-dramas that I have seen. It’s not a knockout movie by any means and the tempo is at times painstakingly slow (not to mention that it’s 3 hours long!). But I kinda like this movie and the effort it makes to tell a really thorough story about a very fascinating designer.
The elderly Chanel is portrayed by Shirley MacLaine. I have mixed feelings about that choice of actress. MacLaine totally commands her part, and sometimes it feels like Shirley is just acting like Shirley. Also she speaks American English throughout the movie. But she does gives Chanel a lot of authority, which I think is true to the real Chanel. Shirley’s air time is however pretty small in this movie.
The young Chanel is played by Czechoslovakian actress Barbora Bobulova, and she is much more timid and restrained which sometimes makes it hard to see that the two Chanels are actually the same person.
One thing that I found a little mind boggling was how the story in this biopic differs from Coco avant Chanel. I did some research and it seems like Coco Chanel is more historically correct than Coco avant Chanel. But it’s clear that both movie makers has used some creative freedom when writing the scripts.
So can I recommend this movie? Well, if you have a great interest in the life of Coco Chanel, I think you will find it worthwhile. As I said it’s not a high class drama by any means, but it’s perfectly decent. But I do think that it works better in a three part tv-format, since 180 minutes of this film can be too much to handle in one sitting (it actually took me three sittings to finish it).
Other fashion movies that I have reviewed:
Coco avant Chanel
Valentino – The Last Emperor
The September Issue
Giorgio Armani – A man for all seasons
Marc Jacobs/Louis Vuitton and Lagerfeld Confidential
Yves Saint Laurent and Signe Chanel