This biopic offers a fascinating, revelatory look at how far women's rights and LGBTQ acceptance have come in a century. Colette deftly creates complex characters who are well-written, well-acted, and well-directed. The script is pure auditory luxury: witty, clever, divine. Even more remarkable is how the characters speak "dirty" and yet turn the phrases with such sophistication that they sound refined (examples: "toxic embrace" and "I'll be lying in bed thinking of the two of you in the fondest way possible"). Knightley is powerful as a country girl who marries into high-society circles and emerges as a woman who's extremely comfortable in her skin and yet lives uncomfortably ahead of her time. And West is captivating as Willy, Colette's husband, who's a charming, gregarious, larger-than-life personality. When he behaves inexcusably, it's consistent with his character, perhaps helping audiences understand why Colette stays with him for so long.
Every moment of Colette delivers the unexpected. That said, when the point is to show how the character is pushing the envelope, it would be helpful to get more nuance to the historical context. For example, Colette's male friend, Wague (Dickie Beau), is an effeminate performer who seems to be accepted by society. But her friend and eventual lover, Missy (Denise Gough), is a woman who identifies and dresses as a man and is seen as scandalous. It's left unclear where the line lay during the Belle Époque, which would have helped viewers fully understand Colette's efforts.