Coco Chanel (2008)
Reviewed on 2009 February 28
Unusual Lifetime movie that’s notable because there’s a montage that actually advances the plot (once Coco goes to a beachfront town). It starts with Shirley MacLaine as a chain-smoking fierce Coco and through flashbacks show how she developed her tough stylish shell.
Gabrielle Chanel (played as a young woman by Barbora Bobulova) spends most of her formative years in a convent, and does her best to look after her baby sister and, upon her eighteenth birthday, earn a living. She begins work in a place that has a veneer of sophistication over its sweatshop practices. She first shows her natural gift for style when she helps a society dowager pull off a goofy ready-made concoction by adding a nip here and a hem there, and progresses to designing her own millinery.
The problem is in this film, she progresses at a snail’s pace. I understand Coco had an inordinate amount of pain in her personal life but it was used weakly here, with way too much time being spent on her first love, Etienne (Sagamore Stevenin). I was looking forward to seeing the origins of the perfume line, and I felt cheated when a few grudging seconds were taken to show us how Chanel No. 5 was born. A bottle of this stuff is sold every minute or so, and that’s the best they can do? The time spent on Boy Capel (Olivier Sitruk), the other man in her life, was good because he also moved her career along. I know it’s Lifetime and they either show romance or woman-in-danger, but with MacLaine and the fact that it dealt with fashion, I thought the movie would write itself for the clothes horses out there.
Two chocolate morsels. For Lifetime, that’s huge.