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Coco Before Chanel review

The fashion icon and her humble beginnings get the biopic treatment...

A sparky if too-sweet Audrey Tautou plays Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in a biopic tracing the legendary designer’s ascent from penniless seamstress-cum-cabaret singer to fashion-house proprietor.

In between, she suffers being a kept woman on the estate of wealthy playboy Étienne Balsan (a likeably exuberant Benoît Poelvoorde), while adapting his wardrobe, going on to revolutionise female style with her trademark elegant simplicity.

Much is made of the corset-scorning, free-spirited Coco battling her way through a man’s world, but the narrative motor is less her career than her troubled romance with British industrialist “Boy” Capel (a darkly charismatic Alessandro Nivola).

Playing Coco’s orphaned beginnings like a violin, writer/director Anne Fontaine shows a sure hand when it comes to emotional button-pushing. But she dithers over how to end and her pedestrian shooting style (offset by stark production design) suits her spiky subject about as well as the bloom-laden hats she reviled.

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Available platformsMovie