Chocolat

| January 17, 2001

What a sweet concoction this latest from talented director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life As A Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) is. While not up the extremely high standard set by his most recent previous success, The Cider House Rules (1999), this is a delicious follow up, nonetheless. Although the language spoken is English (with a French accent), everything else about the film “feels” French.
This is an art movie for people that don’t generally like “art house” movies. I can’t recall a more seamless film. Everything “fits” perfectly. The tone is consistently enchanting and the ensemble cast made me forget they were acting. The very French Juliette Binoche, Oscar winning best supporting actress of The English Patient (1996), won me over with her sweet performance this time.
Up until this film, co-star Lena Olin (Mrs. Lasse Hallstrom off-screen) was a strong contender as the “Working Actress I Liked Least.” I absolutely hated her in Havana (1990) and have often hoped to never see her again. Her husband brings out the best in her and I think she is fine here.
Oscar winner Judi Dench (she is 007’s boss “M” in the current Pierce Brosnan series, and recently costarred in Tea For Mussolini) is wonderful and will be in contention for another Oscar nomination for her performance here.
And how nice to see Johnny Deep back and effective in a rare, for him, leading man role.
Two-time best actress Oscar nominee, Leslie Caron makes a welcomed return and continues to charm. The plot concerns a mother and daughter who arrive in a small French village under rather mystical conditions and open a chocolate shop at the start of lent. The Catholic mayor, as played by Alfred Molina, takes an instant dislike to them and attempts to drive them out.
The story tells us what effect this conflict has on various villagers. This one is worth your time an money.

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