Colette (15)***

Dir: Wash Westmoreland

With: Keira Knightley, Eleanor Tomlinson, Dominic West, Fiona Shaw

Runtime: 112 minutes

KEIRA Knightley plays the French writer whose fight to be credited for her work blazed a path for other women to follow. Wash Westmoreland’s biographical drama opens in 1892 when Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette is living in the countryside of Burgundy and being courted by Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West), better known under his nom de plume, Willy. Gauthier-Villars was a literary Warhol of his day, using a factory of writers to produce works in his name. Eventually, Colette joins the ranks of his scribblers, scoring a hit with her tales.

She starts to enjoy life in Paris as a sexually liberated woman, but creative success does not bring recognition, which becomes a source of irritation and a strain on her marriage. Despite the title, Westmoreland’s drama seems to be more fascinated with Willy’s story, and it does not help that West, being such a commanding presence in any picture, naturally seizes the limelight. Knightley manages to wrest the picture from him in the end, though, and it becomes a more subtle and intriguing study. Handsomely shot, with this and Knightley’s beautifully judged performance making up for the plodding, chronological structure.

The Front Runner (15)**

Dir: Jason Reitman

With: Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, Kaitlyn Dever, Jenna Kanell

Runtime: 113 minutes

REMEMBER Gary Hart, who was hot favourite for the Democratic nomination in 1988 only to drop out when accused of having an affair? A minor figure you might think. Well, Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air, Juno) clearly reckons the Hart affair has assumed a new relevance in the Trump-#MeToo era.

Hugh Jackman plays the former lawyer in what is either a dreadful hairpiece, or his own hair is in need of some TLC. Given Hart was famously known for his luscious barnet, it is a small but irritating detail. It is not the film’s biggest problem, though.

The Front Runner is excessively gabby, in the way of American political dramas, but nowhere near as sharp as The West Wing. The lessons Reitman highlights, including the way the women in political scandals always come off worse, are dealt with in a heavy handed way, with what seems like 20:20 hindsight. Jackman is given a lot of speeches to make about ethics, the right to privacy and what is more important, the personal or the political, which he delivers with gusto. But we never see the other, presumably lighter, side of Hart, which makes for a two-dimensional, rather pompous and dour central character, and a long couple of hours.