In recent years, a lot of attention has been given to the idea that Hollywood is “out of ideas” because sequels and re-makes dominate cinema box offices. Indeed, with everything from the latest Marvel blockbuster to the critically panned and truly awful Transformers: Age Of Extinction raking in the millions seemingly automatically, it’s hard to argue with this point. However, if we are in an age of sequels and re-makes, it does at least make the other, more original films that are made, much easier to appreciate. And in the past decade, the best of these films have often been those that take biographical approaches to depicting men and women of extraordinary talent.
Sometimes, these films concern genius-level savants whose stories are so interesting they can’t help but be captivating on screen. The timeless 2001 film A Beautiful Mind certainly comes to mind in this category. Even the 2009 drama The Soloist, which Picturebox’s movie blog describes as “like A Beautiful Mind, only groovier” in their review, succeeds through its based-on-a-true-story portrayal of a brilliant but tortured soul. The list goes on: Walk The Line (2005) gave us a captivating look at the life of Johnny Cash; The Social Network (2011), though highly fictionalized, took us inside the mind of one of the most innovative tech geniuses of our time; and 2013’s Rush thrust the world into Formula 1 racing history for a glimpse at two uniquely talented racers plagued by their own success in entirely different
The trend is clear. Amidst the larger-than-life blockbusters that have come to dominate cinema, audiences tend to find a refreshing and often profound impact in those few films that delve into uniquely human concerns. There is something wholly captivating about witnessing the lives of geniuses, complete with all their flaws and triumphs. But what you may not have realized before is that in this biopic genre of film—often thought of as pertaining largely to musicians, politicians and historical figures—high-end fashion has carved out its own compelling niche. So, if these types of biopic films appeal to you, and you are interested in the history of fashion brands and designers, here are a few films well worth your time.
Yves Saint Laurent (2014)
A brand-new film that debuted in January in France but is only just beginning to gain worldwide attention from critics and viewers alike, Yves Saint Laurent is a realistic look at the life of the famed designer (played by Pierre Niney). The film mostly concerns the beginning of Laurent’s career in 1958 when he met Pierre Berge (Guillaume Gallienne), his partner in work and in life. It has received mixed marks from critics. Niney’s performance has been widely praised but the film itself has been criticized for lacking flair or for being, as Christy Lemire’s review at Rogerebert.com put it, “emotionally shallow.” Still, it’s certainly worth a look for an uncanny portrayal of Yves Saint Laurent himself.
House Of Versace (2013)
A lesser-known TV film that aired on Lifetime in 2013, House Of Versace will only be interesting to fans of the brand and of Donatella Versace. For such fans, however, it’s kind of fascinating. Gina Gershon plays Donatella in 1997 and the years after, when she was forced to overcome personal issues to save the globally renowned family brand. Gershon is weird and pretty effective, and the film oddly twists its way into more of a film about family than one about the industry the Versace family is tied to.
Coco Before Chanel (2009)
The closest thing to a full biopic on this list, Coco Before Chanel essentially offers a full picture at the life of Chanel, and of her rise to the top of fashion. Audrey Tautou, best known for her title role in Amélie and her appearance in The Da Vinci Code steps into the role of Chanel with all her usual expertise. The film ultimately goes out of its way to implement the visual style that ought to be present in any fashion biopic.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
To call The Devil Wears Prada a biopic is probably a little bit of a stretch, as the film certainly offers an exaggerated and comedic take on the fashion world. However, it’s also just about undeniable that infamous Vogue editor Anna Wintour was the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly character (which isn’t exactly flattering for Wintour). For her part, Wintour was apparently a good sport about the film, judging by comments quoted at Chasing The Frog. Regardless, this is perhaps a more satirical, but very enjoyable, fashion film to watch if you haven’t seen it before.