04 July 2012

Film review: Chocolat (2000), by Lasse Hallström, ****

Driven by fate, Vianne (Binoche) drifts into a tranquil French village with her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol, from Ponette) in the winter of 1959. Her newly opened chocolatier is a source of attraction and fear, since Vianne's ability to revive the villagers' passions threatens to disrupt their repressive traditions. The pious mayor (Alfred Molina) sees Vianne as the enemy, and his war against her peaks with the arrival of "river rats" led by Roux (Depp), whose attraction to Vianne is immediate and reciprocal. Splendid subplots involve a battered wife (Lena Olin), a village elder (Judi Dench), and her estranged daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss), and while the film's broader strokes may be regrettable (if not for Molina's rich performance, the mayor would be a caricature), its subtleties are often sublime. Chocolat reminds you of life's simple pleasures and invites you to enjoy them. --Jeff Shannon for Amazon

A drifting single mother comes to inject a healthy does of laicism and joie de vivre in a sleepy French village soaked up in bigotry. The two are at first ostracized but then, slowly, people in the village, and eventually even the strict, hypocritical and controlling mayor, are moved to see the brighter, sweeter side of life that chocolate represents. You don't have to be a chocoholic to get the point!

Binoche is simply superb throughout.

This well paced film is an invitation to free ourselves from stereotypes, and enjoy what life has to offer. I don't know if Steve Jobs ever saw this movie, but he might have said it is an exhortation to "be hungry, be foolish". Don't sit back and watch life flow past you, but look at what is new, unusual, apparently useless or even frivolous, and go for it: much good could come out for you!

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