Lasse Hallstrom’s French fairy tale plays on one of man’s major weaknesses – Chocolate!
Juliet Binoche’s roaming red coat Vianne, arrives in the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of lent along with her daughter, Anouk.
In a time of restraint the opening of her Mayan chocolate shop sends more than the usual shockwaves through the isolated and stifled hamlet.
But her chocolates are slightly sweeter and magical than the normal with all manner of seemingly mystical properties that bring the townsfolk out of their slumber much to the dismay of the town elders and rulers. Alfred Molina is the premier opponent, Mayor Comte de Reynaud, fearful of the effects on his tight control of the sleepy village and his own sinful feelings.
In Chocolat it’s not just the about sweet temptation of the magical confectionery but the inward battles of the village folk who manage to find a way to let loose the shackles of convention. The intriguing legend of Binoche’s inherited duty of bringing joy to where it’s needed the most adds a tantalising element of mystery as she arrives on the beckoning of a “cold north wind”.
Sublimely acting all-round most notably by Binoche’s sweet temptress and Leno Olin’s abused wife who arcs as the living representation of a town transformed; the every brilliant Dame Judi Dench effortlessly plays an aging grandmother who really shouldn’t be eating such sweet things.
Certainly beautiful but the sugary goodness momentarily gives way to saccharine artificiality with super soft visuals and predictability as the town haters turn to conventional scare tactics to ward off Binoche and the river docked traveller Johnny Depp donning a ropey Irish accent in a pre-Pirates dress rehearsal. But it’s a heart-warming tale that still manages not to sugar coat its major themes of community conformity, family and loss.
A movie that puts a smile on the face and widely described as a chick flick, if that’s the case I may need to watch more!
Chocolat as Jason Segel once commented in I Love You Man, is just delightful!