"Coco Chanel" is the classic "bait-and-switch" film. Lifetime hyped up this made-for-TV movie back in 2008 as being a Shirley MacClaine vehicle. Unfortunately for people like myself, giving this film a shot because of MacClaine's presence, there will be some disappointment. "Coco Chanel" does feature MacClaine as the title character, but only in a supporting role. The film is anchored by Barbora Bobulova, playing Chanel as a younger woman and chronicling her rise to the top of the fashion world.
The movie itself is exactly what one would expect from a Lifetime original movie. It's full of melodrama and very pedestrian in execution. I was only mildly familiar with Chanel's life, so I can't speak to the factual accuracy of the story, but I suspect the soap opera style romances were highly exaggerated. The only thing that sets this apart for your average movie-of-the-week are the performances. Bobulova does a well above average job as Chanel and was frankly the only reason I was able to make it through the film in one sitting. The men in Chanel's life, while cast for their brooding looks also do well, despite the terribly clichéd storytelling. The one weak link in the whole outfit is the headliner herself, Shirley MacClaine. MacClaine feels out of place here, turning in a grumpy performance with a bizarre accent. Her entire casting just adds another level of cliché to the storytelling, since she plays the older Chanel and her segments act as segues to flashbacks which the majority of the film is made up of. Malcolm McDowell does his usual good job as Chanel's trusted friend and business advisor. Fans of his shouldn't waste their time though, as he's used in limited amounts as well.
Perhaps I expected way too much from this film, but "Coco Chanel" despite the few accolades it received is merely an average film. It was built up as this epic biopic (139 minutes without commercials), but comes off as a soap opera with period clothing. Fans of Chanel may find some interest here, but I suspect they will find the uninspired storytelling even more frustrating than myself.
"Coco Chanel" is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While I didn't notice any glaring video defects, the copy I received for review was screening check disc and featured a periodic burnt-in notice reflecting this fact. I will not assign a video rating since I can't say this represents the final A/V product.
SEE VIDEO SECTION
The 'Extras' menu advertises a featurette that is supposed to be present on the final street disc. This bonus was not present on this screener.
While I have nothing against soap-opera storytelling (to be truthful, I find "The Young and the Restless" to be entertaining from time-to-time), a woman of the grandeur of Coco Chanel deserves a higher quality telling of her life. While this program definitely shines a bit above the standard TV movie, at the end of the day it's nothing special. Chanel fans will most likely want to wait for "Coco avant Chanel" which stars the fabulous Audrey Tautou as the fashion icon. Skip It.