By all accounts, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was ahead of her time. This early 20th century fashion icon was one of the first designers to free women from corsets and over-the-top frou-frou and bring elements of male fashion and sportswear to women's clothes. She declined to marry any of her many love interests and finagled ways to launch a fashion empire on her own terms, making her a feminist of sorts long before the word even existed. Her contributions to the world of haute couture earned her a spot on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, the only person in the world of fashion to earn this honor.

Coco Before Chanel (in French with subtitles) gives us a peek at this fashion-forward woman ahead of her time in the spotlight, focusing on her surprisingly dramatic and difficult beginnings. In the opening scenes, she's just a young girl being dropped off at an orphanage with her sister, Adrienne, following their mother's death and father's abandonment. This home for girls is run by nuns—and as the camera lingers over their simple black-and-white habits with the odd, elegant angles, those who know of Chanel's signature simplicity will see inspiration for things to come.

We then skip ahead about ten years to when the teenaged sisters are working in a tailor shop by day and a cabaret by night, hoping to make their big break so they can move to Paris. It's there, amidst the drunken sailors and busty prostitutes, that one of the songs the sisters performs earns Gabrielle (Audrey Tautou) the nickname "Coco."

While Adrienne (Marie Gillain) is romantic and optimistic about her future with a baron who frequents the cabaret, Coco is jaded about men and love, claiming "a woman in love is helpless, ...

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Coco Before Chanel
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sexual content and smoking)
Genre
Directed By
Anne Fontaine
Run Time
1 hour 45 minutes
Cast
Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola
Theatre Release
November 06, 2009 by Sony Pictures Classics
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