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There are several little stories told in this little gem, but the two
that stand out for me are the sort of Mary Poppins quality of a
strange, mysterious woman (Binoche) who brings joy (and a little upset)
to a staid community, and the dignity of the older woman (Dench) who
refuses to allow a malady to define who she is, and who she chooses to
be remembered as.
Some grand life lessons lie herein, as does a rather good effort by Depp as well. It is interesting to see Leslie Caron's contribution, even though I'm not much of a Caron (Lili) fan. Lena Olin is enchanting and dependable, as usual.
Admittedly I love Chocolate and was biased towards liking this film. All who knew me insisted I see it. When a film is named after your favourite thing, your expectations may be high, but this film far surpassed mine! It's a beautiful tale that captures the heart. Letting us in on a small piece of Vianne's life, it teaches a lesson in embracing and loving life. It shows passion and what it means to truly live.
An atheist woman and her daughter move into a highly religious town and open up a chocolate shop just in time for lent... thus making the mayor want to drive them out of town, before the town's people indulge in the sins of chocolate during their time of lent. Excellent. Outstanding performances by the entire cast, good direction, and a charming and original story. All the characters are likeable including the mayor, and the chocolate in the movie looks so good you can't help, but want some yourself. *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Aromatic, sweet, rich and flawlessly blended, Lasse Hallstrom's `Chocolat'
perfectly matches the delectable treats sculpted and doled out by Juliette
Binochet throughout the movie. Perhaps the most gifted director working
today, Hallstrom was probably the only one who could have made this tale
a Mary Poppinseque chocolate maker a masterpiece.
An exquisite piece of work, Chocolat delvers a strong message in just 121 minutes (It seems shorter.) with Hallstrom's velvet glove preventing the points he makes from stinging too badly.
LIKELY SPOILERS AHEAD
Set in a quaint French village in 1959, a universe away from the worldly French big city life going on around it, the film begins with strong overtones of Mary Poppins. A `clever North wind' blows in not an umbrella-wielding nanny, but a chocolate-baking single mother and her young daughter. We later learn that the woman, Vianne (Binochet) hails from a long line of drifting Mayan women who dispense health and happiness through ancient magical recipes.
Just like in the earlier children's movie, the North wind blows her into a fussy locale, badly in need of a breath of fresh air-and a taste of chocolate. The village is a small, close-knit community where tradition is paramount-along with the leadership of the Catholic Church and the elected officials. Monsieur Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) is mayor of the small town and is descended from the first Comte (count) de Reynaud, whose statue stands outside the church in the center of town. He takes it upon himself to rewrite sermons for youthful priest Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor), to spread gossip and to keep unsavory elements out of town. He leads by example, fasting throughout Lint.
The Comte meets his match in the strong-willed Vianne, however, as she dares open a chocolate shop during the beginning of Lint. Parishioners in this tiny village do not choose one negligible habit to dispense with during Linten season; they are expected to be abstinent even in marriage and to avoid all sweets and other forms of pleasure. As outcast villager Josephine Muscat (Lena Olin) says, those who misbehave or who fail to fit the narrowly defined roles within the community are termed `crazy' or forced out. Josephine and elderly Armande Voizin (Dame Judi Dench) are both outcasts who are reassured by the suave, confident chocolate maker. When swashbuckling river drifter Roux (Johnny Depp) and his band show up, it is more than the Comte can stand and the battle lines are finally drawn.
The plot has no real surprises, yet never drags. Hallstrom weaves his spell, with just a touch of mystical magic, as that old North wind blows in from time to time and stirs things up in the tiny town. The village itself is wonderful-both in the aerial shots (models, I assume) and closer views. Looking back, I cannot remember seeing an automobile, a few of which I assume would have been seen in even the most modest village in 1959. Still, it is a most charming setting and it works quite well. Even the first Comte's statue comes into play more than once.
The cast is superb. I was only familiar with Dench and Depp, prior to seeing the film. Everyone shines, though. Binochet rules the roost with a strong, appealing and very human portrayal of the sometimes-mystical sometimes-vulnerable Vianne. Strikingly attractive, her looks and tempting sweets are too much for the provincial natives. Molina is wonderful as the overbearing Comte. Every church has an elder/deacon like this. A good man at heart, he fights to suppress his own desires and heartache and expects the others to emulate his example. The protection of his idyllic village is his overriding priority. While pushy and presumptuous, Molina never crosses the line and becomes a cardboard villain.
Of course it goes without saying that Dench is superb. (When has she NOT been?) As the elderly, worn-out landlady, she sparkles with her usual strength, grit and charm. She and Binochet are marvelous together. She also shines with her artistic grandson Luc, played splendidly by Aurelien Parent-Koenig.
Olin makes a wonderful transformation as Josephine and delivers one of the best lines of the movie. Her drunken husband Serge (Peter Stormare) had roared, `You don't even know how to use a skillet!' while breaking into the chocolate shop to take her home. After conking him on the head with a frying pan, she proclaimed, `Who says I don't know how to use a skillet?' Depp also does good work and provides fine romantic tension with Binochet. John Wood and Leslie Caron also make a charming couple, who Vianne brings together in their twilight years. O'Conor, meanwhile, is likeable as the earnest, but inexperienced priest. A fan of American rock & roll music, despite himself, he nevertheless takes his vows seriously. He sternly lectures Wood for having prayed for God to soothe his ailing 14-year-old dog's spirit. When Wood blithely outmaneuvers him, he quickly slams the confessional door.
Perhaps my favorite Hallstrom moment is when the prim and proper widow Madame Audel sneaks a piece of candy during Mass. The crinkling of the wrapper catches many ears-especially those of the Comte, who gives her an icy stair. The camera then catches her-cool as a cucumber-innocently swallow her candy.
Of course it is not hard to predict the moral that will be learned by the priest, the Comte and his stunningly attractive secretary (Carrie-Anne Moss). This hardly matters, as Hallstrom and his cast and crew's execution are virtually seamless. To paraphrase the Christopher Reeves `Superman' promos, `You will BELIEVE that a magical chocolate recipe can change lives!' Hallstrom has a way of making a believer out of us.
If you like the writer Gabriel Garcia Marques you will probably love this movie. This film has an aroma and there is a magic behind. May be the plot is not complex, but this is a movie, it's visual. Children actors are really good. I saw it twice and it was even better for the second time.
Chocolat is a wonderful movie. As simple as that. Beautifully shot, smartly
directed, and well acted, what more can you possibly ask? No wonder the
Oscar nominees. This has all the fine materials for making a memorable
movie. Chocolat? You will beg for more.
Set in 1960's at a small town in France, this is the story of Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her 6 year old daughter, a couple that are destined to move from one city to another through the country. As she settles in yet another new town, she opens another chocolate shop - an act not appreciated by the Mayor and his followers. However her warm personality and incredible chocolates manage to win over many people. But things change dramatically as a group of river drifters lead by Roux (Johnny Depp) settle by the town. Vianne welcomes them, and becomes friends with Roux, leading to even more anger from the Mayor. He is totally against them, he fears they will change his people. The struggle continues but how will it end?
Elements of Religion, Human Naure, Life+Death, Sympathy, brutality, and fear -- among others -- will appear as you watch, but still this will remain as sweet as ... chocolat! Great performances from Juliette Binoche & Alfred Molina, the rest of the cast are also brilliant. Director Lasse Hallström offers a poetic film that is worth all the appreciation and critical acclimation its getting.
Recommended? It surely is. You will love it. See ... Love is like swallowing hot chocolate, Before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, But keeps you warm for a long time
I can honestly say that this is not my favourite movie of the year
2000, but it still ranks very high in that list of movies. Also it
ranks highest among the films which I have heard little about, but
which I liked anyway. I mean this film got 5 Oscar Nominations, made
more then 100 Million Dollars at the Box - Office and had big (and/or
quality) names attached to it (Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche and Judi
Dench). Despite all these factor's I didn't know about that film until
I saw it standing on a shelf in the store I rent my movies at. To be
honest, from the title, the cover and the parts I read at the backside
of the film's package, I was convinced this was some touchy/feely
romantic crap. (Oh boy was I wrong). This did not stop me from renting
it though, first of all because of the Oscar nominations, second of all
because of the big names attached and third of all because Johnny Depp
rarely let's me down. Well the instinct had not forsaken me and I must
admit I enjoyed this pretty much. The acting was good, there were
laughs, romantic parts, sad parts, exciting parts in a few words
everything that life and good film can offer. This film is really well
made and acted and (contrary to most films nowadays) gives you
something to think about, after you have watched the film. It is truly
beautiful and poetic. Really, well done.
8 out of 10
Chocolat works as a sweet comedic fable about opening up to new
I am normally put off by political correctness and assaults on religion, and at times the movie became heavy-handed. But it seemed to me that Chocolat was not so much anti-religion or anti-tradition, as it was a more subtle look at when tradition works, and when it can be misused so that it no longer enriches, but stultifies.
Also, the rootlessness which is portrayed as the opposite of what the traditional French village stands for, is not shown in entirely glowing terms. And the endearing and solidifying features of the village are not overlooked. Ultimately Chocolat proposes a merger of these two tendencies for the benefit of all.
Fine performances, especially Judi Dench and the girl who plays Juliette Binoche's daughter. I did find myself occasionally distracted by the decision to use, not subtitles nor dubbing, but English with faux French accents.
The theme of the movie of course is not original -- think, Mary Poppins for grown ups.
This movie is soooooo good. Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp are two big reasons to see it right there. If that doesn't do it for you, then maybe the whole chocolate thing will do it for you. You don't like chocolate, you say? Well, how about a good movie where people have faults, and learn to live with others that are different. This movie really is good, whether you are female or male. See it with friends or family...Just don't forget the chocolate!
This was an intresting movie, the filming and pictures was very nice and
actors were excellent.
However i found it rather predictable, it was quite easy to figure out what would happen, also i found it a little bit to long, they could have cut it down and made it a bit shorter.
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