Chocolat

"OK"

Chocolat Review


A fanciful fairy tale for grown-ups, "Chocolat" takes place in a sleepy French village, circa 1959, and stars Juliette Binoche as a nomadic confectioner of sublime candy delicacies whose arrival -- just as Lent has begun -- stirs curiosity, gossip and scornful disdain among the locals.

Happy-go-lucky in the face of adversity and apparently a boat-rocker by nature, she sets up shop practically across the street from the church, providing almost cruel temptation to a population observing 40 days of fasting and penitence.

But the influence of the chocolaterie and its proprietor soon extends beyond simple taste bud enticement. Her enchanted chocolates and therapeutic personality have soon rekindled the marriage of a local couple, returned a smile to the face of her cantankerous landlady (Judi Dench), and inspired an abused wife (Lena Olin) to leave her husband (and come work for Binoche). This disruption in the status quo ruffles the feathers of the zealous and austere local nobleman (Alfred Molina), who considers the chocolate shop to be the work of the devil and sets his mind to seeing Binoche run out of town for interrupting the village's static tranquility.

It is implied that Binoche and her chocolate concoctions stir up this kind of trouble everywhere she goes -- which is, in part, why she and her young daughter (Victoire Thivisol, "Ponette") have moved from town to town. But director Lasse Halstrom ("The Cider House Rules") also builds a myth around her, providing backstory about her apothecary father who traveled to Central America to study indigenous medicine and fell in love with a Mayan woman powerless against her hereditary wanderlust.

Having been nomadic her whole life, it's natural that Binoche soon becomes the only villager to welcome a band of river gypsies that anchors on the outskirts of town, provoking more distrust and trouble -- and bringing a romance for our heroine in the form of steel guitar-plucking Johnny Depp.

Binoche ("The English Patient," "Alice et Martin") is winning in the lead, capturing her character's warm eccentricity. But the slight, knowing smirk she wears throughout the picture -- as if she knows an amusing secret she refuses to tell -- speaks to the overall atmosphere of the film, which seems awfully pleased with itself for such frivolous, predictable fare.

Halstrom infuses "Chocolat" with an esoterically poetic quality, but there's a smugness in the way he directs the story, as if he's looking down on the townspeople as a mostly fatuous lot that needs a free spirit like Binoche to loosen their shackles of tradition.

Consequently, Molina is almost as much of a cartoon villain here as he was playing Snidley Whiplash in last year's "Dudley Do-Right" movie. And his character is indicative of the movie's larger problem: It's full of capricious clichés that are overcome only by the film's more splendid performances.

Dench is a delight, confessing her heart to Binoche one moment, then barking that it's none of her damn business the next. Carrie-Anne Moss (in a broad departure from her sexy neo-feminists in "The Matrix" and "Red Planet") makes a strong impression as Dench's estranged, piously moralistic and overprotective daughter, who has forbidden her son to see his grandmother. Hugh O'Conor is a bit of comic relief as the young, very green new priest with a jones for American rock'n'roll, but without the courage to stand up to the domineering Count, who leans on the clergyman to preach against Binoche and her tantalizing sweets.

Depp, whose role is relatively small, gives an excellent performance as the vagabond Irish charmer who meets his match in Binoche.

Even though "Chocolat" flirts with overtly heart-plucking tragedy in the last act, the picture has an ethereal ambience about it that many will find enchanting enough to forgive its shortcomings.

But from its once-upon-a-time opening voice-over that describes how the village's stoic tranquility existed "Until one day a sly wind blew in from the North..." the movie is just a bit too concocted to truly transport a viewer the way Halstrom intends.



Chocolat

Facts and Figures

Run time: 121 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th January 2001

Box Office USA: $71.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $152.5M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Miramax

Production compaines: Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 72 Rotten: 43

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Vianne Rocher, as Comte Paul de Reynaud, as Roux, as Caroline Clairmont, as Armande Voizin, as Josephine Muscat, as Serge Muscat, as Guillaume Blerot, as Madame Audel, Antonio Gil as Jean-Marc Drou, Hélène Cardona as Francoise Drou, as Pere Henri, as Luc Clairmont, as Anouk Rocher, Harrison Pratt as Dedou Drou, as Didi Drou, Elisabeth Commelin as Yvette Marceau, as Alphonse Marceau

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.