2018 Awards Profile: Bleecker Street’s ‘Colette’ by Wash Westmoreland

Welcome to the 2018 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you at some point this year (at least at this time of writing). We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday through Friday to talk about their awards hopes and analyze the film’s chances for success. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Colette”

PRODUCERS: Elizabeth Karlsen, Pamela Koffler, Michel Litvak, Christine Vachon, Gary Michael Walters, Stephen Woolley

DIRECTOR: Wash Westmoreland

DISTRIBUTOR: Bleecker Street

RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2018

WRITERS: Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Wash Westmoreland

CAST: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough, Fiona Shaw, Eleanor Tomlinson, Robert Pugh, Ray Panthaki

SYNOPSIS (from IMDB): The story of a marriage, Colette shows the lengths one woman must go to escape her husband’s control and claim her voice as an artist.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED:

Could the third time be the charm for Keira Knightley? The actress has earned two previous Oscar nominations for period pieces – “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) and “The Imitation Game” (2014). Knightley takes on the lead role of Colette, a female writer during Belle Époque Paris who finds her husband Willy (Dominic West) taking credit for her work. Early word out of Sundance suggests this is a galvanizing performance that resonates with the current gender disparity in our country. This gives Knightley a strong narrative towards an Actress nomination.

Knightley isn’t the only actor in the cast who might have a shot at a nomination. As Willy, Colette’s spouse that steals her name and work, Dominic West gets a lot of opportunities to chew scenery. Reviews have described his performance as loud and showy. If Knightley becomes more of a thing in Best Actress, West could easily follow suit. It might not even be a question of coattails. We’ve seen showy supporting performances show up even when their lead counterpart misses (see Barkhad Abdi for “Captain Phillips”).

The turn of the century Parisian atmosphere could really resonate with the Academy beyond Knightley. In fact, this sort of costume drama fits right within the wheelhouse of the technical branches of the Academy. Renowned British composer tried his hand at film score with “Colette,” which could get him into the Original Score category. The art directors, costume designers or makeup artists don’t have any precursor history with the Oscars. Yet, this sort of period tale routinely finds itself with nominations in this category. One of the last film’s to take place in this period, “Midnight in Paris,” saw a nomination for Best Art Direction. In fact, the film was well-received to get into Director, Writing (which it won) and Picture.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED:

The basic premise of the film – woman struggles to receive credit for her art thanks to a con artist husband – has been done before. Worse, it was done by “Big Eyes,” Tim Burton’s failed piece of 2014 Oscar bait. That film earned Amy Adams a Golden Globe award and even got Christoph Waltz a Globe bid. However, it came up empty in terms of box office, critical response and Oscar nominations. Early reviews out of Sundance specifically called out this comparison. However, they’ve routinely said that Colette succeeds in many of the ways “Big Eyes” failed. Its tone is apparently lighter and more friendly to a wide type of audience. This gives it more of a shot at being a hit but also serves as a liability to its Oscar chances.

Writer/director Wash Westmoreland got his first into the Oscars with “Still Alice” for Julianne Moore’s performance. However, Westmoreland was not nominated for Directing or Writing for that film, which he did with his late husband Richard Glatzer. This being Westmoreland’s first film without his partner, he brings a certain compelling narrative to the season. However, this isn’t always enough for Oscars to welcome new voices to the club. Perhaps “Colette” could turn this around or maybe it’s just an Actress and Craft play.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Picture – Elizabeth Karlsen, Pamela Koffler, Michel Litvak, Christine Vachon, Gary Michael Walters, Stephen Woolley
  • Director – Wash Westmoreland
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Keira Knightley
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – Dominic West
  • Writing (Original Screenplay) – Richard Glatzer, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Wash Westmoreland
  • Costume Design – Andrea Flesch
  • Makeup & Hairstyling – Judit Halász, Szilvia Homolya, Jánosné Kajtár, Natasha Klipp
  • Original Score – Thomas Ades
  • Production Design – Renátó Cseh, Hedvig Kiraly, Katrina Mackay

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CHECK OUT THE FIRST OFFICIAL SET OF YEAR-IN-ADVANCE OSCAR PREDICTIONS

AND SEE WHERE “COLETTE” RANKS!