Shirley MacLaine in Coco Chanel (2008)

Chanel No. 2

Following the death of her mother Coco Chanel (Barbora Bobulova/ Shirley MacLaine) and her sister are dropped off at a convent by her father who is unable to cope. Believing he will one day return for them Coco receives a wake up call when she sees him with another woman and a baby leading to a feeling of abandonment. But her time at the convent turns Coco into a more than competent seamstress. Her ability to repair and create clothes leads to her eventually entering the world of fashion design as she sought to change women's fashions whilst also bringing her to the attention of many male admirers who are attracted to this young woman willing to break with convention. But after scaling the height of her profession and then taking some time out an attempted come back with a fashion show in 1954 ends disastrously.

I am not expert on Coco Chanel, in fact if someone was wearing a Chanel outfit or Chanel perfume I wouldn't be able to tell you but that doesn't mean the life of Coco Chanel doesn't interest me. Chanel's story is the classic one of rags to riches going from being abandoned by her father to working for a slave driver on to various relationships and incredible success. And Chanel's story is an interesting one, one which I came to know through watching "Coco Before Chanel" which if you have watched you will see various scenes which are expectedly identical such as an early scene of Coco singing in a club.

Barbora Bobulova in Coco Chanel (2008)

Now I am torn by "Coco Chanel" because it is beautifully acted yet it is overlong and frequently feels laboured, weighed down by trying to be a grand costume drama. It is a shame that this 3 hours mini-series/ TV movie aims too high because it can't consistently hit the heights it aims for. By that it frequently manages to grab your attention with a stunning scene, even something as simple as a delivery boy on a bike is impressively shot, yet then when it focuses on the drama between the characters it just as frequently feels drawn out, trying too hard to be grand.

Despite this "Coco Chanel" does boast a good cast and both Barbora Bobulova and Shirley MacLaine are brilliant as Coco. MacLaine brings grandeur to the role, that sense of a woman who has hit the top and then is incredulous when it comes to having become out of date. But it is the attractive Bobulova who for me deserves the most praise as she brings the fragility and nervousness of the young Coco to the screen. The trouble is for me is that the screenplay fails to evolve the character all the way through and there comes a point where there is a jump between the young Coco and the older one.

What this all boils down to is that "Coco Chanel" is an impressive TV movie and features a great look and some great acting. But it is an ambitious movie which unfortunately often feels weighed down by trying to be a grand costume drama frequently labouring under that need to impress with look and scale.