Richard von Busack from Metroactive.com
Audrey Tautou plays the designer as modernist in the years before World War I—a woman who assumed male privilege by assuming the simplicity and directness of their clothes. After a stint as a saloon singer, Coco calculates her way into bed with a wealthy rake named Etienne Balsan (Benoit Poelvoorde). Director Anne Fontaine reminds us that this is a movie from the country that gave us Rules of the Game. What could have been a dull bird-in-the-gilded-cage story turns urbane, with the ever-changing flow of power between the slightly wizened but sporty decadent. When Balsan realizes that another man has stolen Coco, he only murmurs, “I’m smiling, because I’m the one who let the fox into the hen house.” The fox in question: a British businessman nicknamed “Boy” (Alessandro Nivola). The end titles call the house of Chanel an empire, but Tautou—last seen, cigarette on lip, in a cage of mirrors, surrounded by models wearing her gowns—makes it look like mostly hard work. Tautou is perhaps aged for the young Coco but she’s unusually sharp: it’s easy to imagine why someone would love admire such a moody, direct woman.