It occurred to me pretty quickly that Audrey Tautou is entirely too old to be playing a 20-year-old, but it took minutes for me to forget that this marvelous actress is 34 and looks every minute of it. It was the intensity of the effort, the ease with which she slipped into the personae of one of the 20th Century's icons of couturier, Coco Chanel (think "little black dress" with another Audrey, Hepburn, wearing it) in the French movie "Coco Before Chanel." It's at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to watch Tautou in this formative years biography without recalling the astonishing 2007 performance of Marion Cotillard in "La Vie En Rose," for which she won an Academy Award for playing Edith Piaf, another strong, accomplished French notable who came from humble beginnings.
Tautou is stark and severe, even prickly, in this role, playing against a softer type she nearly perfected in movies like "Amelie," but I believed her and recognized the spark of what must have become a consuming ambition in Chanel's later years. Tautou is supported admirably by two lovers, played by Benoit Poelvoorde and Alessandro Nivola.
This is a slow story of the development of a lost soul into a woman completely fulfilled not by romance, but by her driving need to work and to accomplish. I liked it. Probably no Academy Award for Audrey Tautou, but a solid and capable performance, I think.
If you're interested in this French subtitled movie, get there this week. It's already in the screening room (where subtitled movies often find their homes) and my guess is it won't be around much longer.