Directed by Lasse Hallström
Review by Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles <email@example.com>
Chocolat has the possibly most truthful and descriptive advertising tagline ever: "One taste is all it takes." Indeed, in this pleasant folk tale set in 1950's France, one taste of chocolate seems to be all that is needed to solve a whole host of problems. In fact, the mere presence of chocolate begins to work changes on the film's provincial town before anyone even eats anything. Chocolate as created by Vianne Rocher (a radiant Juliette Binoche) is clearly magical.
The film starts with a lovely drifter, Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) moving into a small, uptight French town. The town is dominated by the church and the church is dominated by the Mayor, the Comte de Reynard (Alfred Molina). Vianne opens a Chocolaterie during the season of Lent, causing great consternation to the Comte and a myriad of changes amongst the townsfolk. This sets the ground for a battle for the soul of the town with Vianne and the people she has helped on one side and the Comte, town loyalists, and the reluctant Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor) on the other. The battle reaches a critical point when a group of Irish "river rats" set up camp on the town's riverbank. Vianne befriends Roux (Johnny Depp), a guitar-playing river rat, just as the Comte focuses on Roux and his fellow travelers as being immoral and a danger to the town. Will Vianne find acceptance? Will Roux settle down? Will the Comte ever loosen up? Will the Pere get to preach his own sermons instead of sermons written by the Comte?
Will any one be able to see this movie and not want to eat tons of chocolate afterwards?
Despite the danger to your waistline, Chocolat should be seen. It is sweet and delightful. The setting and cinematography by Roger Pratt are as sumptuous as the mouth-watering close-ups on vats of chocolate that fill the screen. The acting is engaging. Juliette Binoche as Vianne, Lena Olin as an abused wife who finds a new life in the Chocolaterie, and Judi Dench as an embittered woman separated from her cute but morbid grandson are especially excellent. The film has plenty of humor, some tear-inducing moments, a genuinely uplifting ending and a satisfying moral which no one will miss since it is flat out stated by Pere Henri in his last sermon of the film. However, the film's most lasting effect will not be on your spirit, but on your stomach. Before seeing this film, make sure you have a large supply of good chocolate waiting for you at home or that there is a chocolate store near the theatre. After the film you will crave good chocolate. You may also crave Juliette Binoche, but the chocolate is easier to get. Happy watching and happy eating.
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