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Better Than Chocolate

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Better Than Chocolate

Starring: Wendy Crewson, Karyn Dwyer
Director: Anne Wheeler
Rated: NR
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: August 1999
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Gay/Lesbian

*Also starring: Christina Cox, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Peter Outerbridge, Marya Delver, Kevin Mundy

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

In Anne Wheeler's BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE, a lesbian, romantic comedy with an infectiously happy spirit, Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) has just dropped out of college.

Maggie was going to be a lawyer, or so her mother thought, but now she works at a tiny bookstore called "Ten Percent Books" -- no, it's not a discount store. The store has one run-in after another with the legal authorities. It seems that in Canada, where the story takes place, lesbian books and videos are frequently considered obscene. (Dildos of many colors and sizes, which appear in the film in profusion, apparently are legal, as are the many other sex toys that serve as props in this sexual romp.)

After Maggie strikes up a romance with an itinerate painter, Kim (Christina Cox), and invites her to move in, Maggie's mother and brother show up and move in for a long visit. Of course, Maggie has never told her mom the truth about her sexuality, so mom keeps asking her about various boyfriends.

The plot is actually fairly irrelevant in this character-driven story. Maggie, with her luscious, curly, reddish-brown hair and her all-American girl looks, would be a catch for anybody. But the movie makes Maggie, rather than Kim, the one that makes the first move.

All of the characters have their little stories to tell. Maggie's mother, Lila (Wendy Crewson), turns out to be getting a divorce from her cheating, lawyer husband. She has read that a woman's chance of having sex decreases by eighty percent after age 40, so she has turned to chocolate, which she says is the next best thing. A treasure trove of sex toys that she finds under Maggie's bed serves up one of the funniest and, for Lila and the audience, one of the most satisfying scenes.

The most unusual character, and one of the best, is played by Peter Outerbridge as the gentle and soft-spoken Judy, a woman soon to have the last of her operations to eradicate her original male sex. Judy performs at a nightclub, in which the performers sing and dance to a host of fun numbers -- the best being "Julie Christy Makes Me So Misty."

Thrown in with the light-hearted story is a subplot about anti-lesbian hatred. It would have been better left for another movie in which it could be explored with more depth and seriousness. It is in the erotic romance and the quirky comedy that the audiences will find enjoyment and pleasure in BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE.

BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE runs 1:41. It is not rated but would be R or NC-17 for strong, explicit sex and nudity and for language and violence. The film isn't appropriate for teens, except for the oldest and most mature.

Copyright 1999 Steve Rhodes

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