CHOCOLAT, from director Lasse Hallström (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES), tells the
story of the liberating powers of chocolate, at least the chocolate
concoctions made by Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), the new chocolatier in
a tiny, nosey French village. With its whimsical music and its bright
colors set against a hazy background, the movie wants to be savored as a
sweet fairytale for adults.
Working from Joanne Harris's novel, screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs
creates a script that is little more than a sketch, a problem that he had in
his last effort, Disney's poorly plotted DINOSAUR. Jacobs throws in a
myriad of slightly quirky characters that give us some reasons to smile but
rarely to laugh.
Alfred Molina is the town's puritanical mayor, who writes the priest's stern
sermons and promises to run Vianne and her daughter, Anouk Rocher (Victoire
Thivisol, PONETTE), out of town by Easter. The film starts at the beginning
of Lent, when temptations of the flesh, like chocolates, are officially in
disfavor in this highly religious town.
Lena Olin plays an abused wife, whose spine is stiffened by the power of the
brown bean. Peter Stormare plays her drunken husband.
Some of the townsfolk find that a chocolate fix is better than Viagra, so
they buy it in bulk. Even the dogs are aroused by its consumption. Our
audience found the funniest scene to be that of two dogs, doing it well,
doggie style. The fact that canine sex produces the movie's largest laugh
is proof that the script needs some major surgery.
Johnny Depp, who usually infuses any role with an intriguing energy, plays
his part of a river rat, an Irish Gypsy, with good looks and little more.
He seemed to be posing for the movie's promotion stills and didn't realize
that the director had called, "Action!"
After lots of chocolate eating and a few nice little moments, the movie
throws in a couple of predictable tragedies to invoke some quick tears in
the audience before it rolls the ending credits. The only thing you might
remember about the film a day later is one of its chocolate confections.
Eat a chocolate; skip the movie.
CHOCOLAT runs 2:01. Regardless of what the title and the setting might lead
you to belief, the film is in English, not French. It is rated PG-13 for a
scene of sensuality and some violence and would be acceptable for kids
around 12 and up. Most kids, however, are likely to be bored.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes