Box art for Coco Before Chanel

Coco Before Chanel

drama, foreign

Audrey Tautou (The Da Vinci Code, Amalie) shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 13
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Positive role models
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
1 out of 5

Fashion biopic is OK for teens; more style than substance.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this historical biopic depicting Coco Chanel's life before she hit it big as a fashion designer examines her somewhat scandalous love-life, in which she is kept by one man but is in love with another, both aware of the other. Her benefactor often treats her like chattel. Though she asserts her independence, she puts up with his disrespect, too. Nevertheless, Coco come across as an incredibly strong woman, a pioneer in many ways. There's a good bit of drinking and smoking, and some subtle love scenes. The movie is in French, with English subtitles.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about why Chanel decides to become Balsan's mistress. Did she have any other options? What does her situation say about the opportunities available to women at the time?
  • What do you think about Chanel's romantic entanglements? Is it possible for her to be with the man she loves?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: As picturesque period biopics with too many symmetrical compositions go, Anne Fontaine's Coco Before Chanel is surprisingly intimate and nuanced.

- David Edelstein, New York Magazine, Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Audience Reviews

4 stars

The lovely, charming Audrey Tautou has graduated into a full-blown, versatile actress. This is a film that challenges her to move beyond the mannerisms and characterizations that won her international acclaim, and she responds. She creates a hard-nosed feminist, whose smile, though still delightful, fails to predicate itself on its ability to be enjoyed by others; it's a smile for its own sake. This performance makes me think she'd be a perfect Dagny Taggart. The script and the story are less compelling than Tautou, and we never really see Chanel creating, forming, or even the slight burgeoning of the company that would bear her name. This seems like a let-down, and there was certainly room for this story within the film. Overall, the film's star carries it and makes up for whatever flaws the script and director may present.

- hunterjt13, Friday, October 15, 2010

3 stars

There is always a danger when bringing a biopic to the big screen. Do you concentrate on the stuff people know or do you play safe? Some would say they do both but generally they follow the same pattern. Fontaine wisely concentrates on the earlier life of Coco, but doesn't dwell unnecessarily on the tough childhood within the orphanage, or the years spent as a cabaret act along side her sister. She concentrates on her fascinating relationship with Etienne Balsan, a fascinating character brilliantly played by Benot Poelvoorde. For the most part the pace is well kept but towards the end Fontaine seems to trip into the typical Hollywood biopic cliches, years are skipped and it all becomes a little unconvincing if not a little dull. I know 'Boy' Capell did die in a car crash but it doesn't help the story become any less cliched, bad luck I guess but the jump from someone who makes hats to global fashion designer is a little ridiculous and feels a little rushed. I wouldn't say Fontaine totally succumbs to trend, where originality is most important she delivers, and visually, this film is as Chic as, well Coco Chanel I suppose! Not bad, certainly not as bad as the critics said on it's realise anyway!

- SirPant, Friday, July 16, 2010

3 stars

Though the story may feel too conventional and somehow incomplete, Coco Avant Chanel is a decent film that presents strong performances and a gracious score.

- blacksheepboy, Sunday, May 9, 2010