4 March 2001 | findkeep
Taste-teasing Mouthmelting Movie Magic
**** out of ****
Chocolat gives new meaning to one of my favorite film phrases
eye candy. As the title would suggest it is a very sweet film, and not only for the gobs and gobs of luscious, mouthwatering, little morsels. There are parts of the film that look like they could belong to a particularly delectable episode of `Martha Stewart Living', but if you can get past the pangs of hunger it will certainly inflict, you will find there is a lot more to this seemingly charming and simple story.
The film plays in the style of all whimsical children's fairy tales, while at the same time blending in a series of very serious adult themes. It chronicles the exploits of single mother Vianne Rocher, played as usual to a wonderful effect by Juliette Binoche, and her sugary but confused 6-year-old daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), who blow in on a forceful winter wind to the small rural French town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. There they open a small chocolate shop. Now this seems innocent enough but the people of the town have different views. For one the shop has been opened at the very unwelcomed time of Lent (a religious fast), during which new temptations certainly aren't invited. Secondly the town's new residents refuse to attend the Sunday morning worship service. Vianne soon finds herself to be the center of the town gossip and distaste, led by the mayor (Alfred Molina). The battle heats up between allegedly pagan Vianne, and the highly conservative, stuffed-shirt townspeople. At start it seems the Rochers are losing, but the fight soon turns as the townsfolk begin to discover the mouth-melting effects of Vianne's wonderful taste-teasing treats.
Misadventure after misadventure occur as the couple come in contact with a wide array of colorful characters (just when you think he must be an extra in comes Johnny Depp), solving their problems while at the same time selling their chocolates. The moral is left fairly open, and can be interpreted in many ways. My personal views are these: That to be good and righteous, doesn't mean you can't be different, you should accept everyone, not necessarily for who they are, but for what they are, human beings. Everyone deserves a proper chance. In the end all characters realize the error of their ways and live together happily and harmoniously.
Chocolat has opened to mixed reviews. Some critics find it to be overly simple, but I think that it is the movie's simplicity that drives it to become so charmingly enthralling. Granted at times it does become at bit silly, but it all ends to a good warm effect. Apparently the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences share my views as the film was nominated for five academy awards, Best Picture, Best Actress (Binoche), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score.
Chocolat is a mouthwatering piece of movie magic. Definitely worth a look! It has it's flaws but they are easily covered up by it's great performances (particularly by Binoche), beautiful scenery, giddy musical score, and delightful story. Oh,
and those wonderful chocolates.