By Joanna Langfield

Unlike its heroine, this costume drama is perfectly content to have you snuggle up and be entertained. What might have been a stronger, angrier piece feels perfectly happy telling its tale, showing us beautiful pictures, and reminding us that some women-behind-the-men really should step into their own spotlight.

Keira Knightley stars as Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the French country girl picked to serve as the wife of a Paris bon vivant and popular novelist. Against the Belle Epoque backdrop, everything looks lush, ripe and just on the verge of explosion. And by everything, I, of course, am including Colette herself, the bumpkin who eventually evolves into her husband’s ghost writing sensation as well as her female lovers’ partner in passion.

Ironic that not one, but two movies about buttoned up, secreted women, writing under their husbands’ names, have hit theaters in a matter of weeks. But while Glenn Close’s The Wife is singed with more than a touch of regret, Knightley’s Colette is chomping at the bit, ready to taste all there is to relish, for better or for worse. Oh, and she wears, eventually, some really great clothes and walks around some wonderful Parisian streets, dines in great looking brasseries and wait till you see what she does with their country house!

While Knightley gives it her all, interestingly, the most arresting performance is given by her game co-star, Dominic West. It’s not easy getting the audience to fall under the spell of a shmucky bad guy, but West pulls it off, making us almost want to spend more time watching what he’s up to, even as his finally smartened up wife moves on to far better things.