Colette ★ 1/2 

Look no further than the poster’s tagline for this biopic to get a sense of what you’re in for: “History is about to change.” Wash Westmoreland, who directed Julianne Moore toward an Oscar with Still Alice, guides two-time nominee Keira Knightley through a terrific lead performance in a movie that’s set in Paris during the turn of the 20th century, while feeling very much of this moment. Knightley plays French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who secretly penned the popular Claudine series—four semi-autobiographical books centered on a brazen country girl’s coming-of-age—under the direction of her husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars (a cartoonish Dominic West), a Parisian man of letters who consistently took credit for others’ work, while using his nom de plume, “Willy.” As Colette begins acting on her growing attraction to other females, she’s prodded by her lout of a spouse, who knew that her affairs would translate into scandalous, bestselling fodder for future tales of Claudine. Colette’s awakening isn’t simply sexual, however. A woman well ahead of her time, she eventually sues for creative ownership of her tomes, all while continuing to fight society’s constraints and exploring gender fluidity. Despite these heavy topics, Westmoreland’s film excels when he relaxes his costume-drama’s best intentions and embraces camp, such as when Colette and Willy independently begin bedding American Southern belle Georgie Raoul-Duval (Brit Eleanor Tomlinson), whose accent is as misguided as Westmoreland’s highbrow aims. Watch it at Boston Common, Coolidge Corner, Kendall Square and West Newton. Watch it at Boston Common, Coolidge Corner, Kendall Square and West Newton.

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