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With movies like Chocolat, it's always best to relax your intellectual faculties and absorb the abundant sensual pleasures, be it the heart-stopping smile of chocolatier Juliette Binoche as she greets a new customer, an in... more »
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A feel good treat that?s better than the book
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 05/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Last year, I reviewed the book CHOCOLAT by Joanne Harris. I'm happy to report that this film adaptation is even better than the print version. And how often can one say that with a straight face?The film begins with a north wind blowing Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) into a small French village at the very beginning of Lent, that pre-Easter period of time, which, in the Catholic liturgy, is dedicated to prayer and physical self-denial. It's not a good time for Vianne, an apparent non-Christian, to open up a chocolate shop across the town square from the church. But, she does so anyway, much to the dismay of the village mayor, the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Reynaud is puritanically determined to shut the shop down, and Vianne is equally determined to keep it open. An irresistible force meets an immovable object.CHOCOLAT, both the book and movie, is a whimsical comedy that blossoms as Lent progresses, and Vianne's shop becomes a place of healing and sanctuary for several of the town's troubled residents. Because Vianne's store is seen (by the local Church establishment) as diametrically opposed to the spirit of the season, the story can also be taken as a gentle fable of conflict between Christianity and paganism. Juliette Binoche is exquisite in her role. (I think I'm in love.) Judi Dench is her usual superb best as Armande, an aged widow deprived of her grandson's company by an over-protective mother, Armande's own daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss). There's also a small role played by Leslie Caron. (Where's she been in recent years?) And Alfred Molina is positively brilliant as the uptight mayor, so dominant that he personally writes the Sunday sermons to be delivered by the local pastor, Fr. Henri, apparently only recently ordained and much in fear of the Comte. Johnny Depp has an engaging role as one member of a band of despised river gypsies just floating through.One very good reason why CHOCOLAT the film is better than CHOCOLAT the book is the added dimension of visualization which the former imparts to several elements of the storyline, specifically the mysterious wind that blew our heroine into town, Anouk's pet Pantoufle, the delectable chocolates themselves (seductively arrayed in the shop window), and the climax of the conflict between Vianne and the Comte. CHOCOLAT the film is one that will have the audience leaving the theater feeling good, and maybe wishing for a cup of Vianne's hot chocolate with a pinch of cayenne pepper. I can't recommend this cinematic gem enough."
A Gentle Tale of Lent and Chocolate
Debbie Lee Wesselmann | the Lehigh Valley, PA | 11/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This adaptation of Joanne Harris's novel lacks the seductive charm and magic of the original, but it succeeds on its own as a quiet film about a French village rife with personal crises. When the mysterious Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), dressed in red capes, arrive in town on a day the wind from the North gusts open the church doors, interrupting the sermon on the first day of Lent, something begins to stir. The pious mayor (Alfred Molina) knows it better than anyone. Vianne opens a chocolaterie, serving up exotic confections designed to bring out the best in people, and relationships in the grim town shift. Vianne seems immune to her own magic - until a band of gypsies and their leader Roux (Johnny Depp) set up camp on the edge of town.
Director Lasse Hallstrom excels in his evocation of a small French village in 1959 and the people inhabiting it. Despite its Swedish director, British author, and international cast, this film feels authentically French. Its rhythms are mostly gentle, and its focus is on character rather than an intricate plot. Juliette Binoche turns in a fine performance, even though her smile at times seems too vapid and easy for such a complicated character. Judi Dench makes a memorable appearance as Vianne's landlady, a crotchety but spirited old woman who is estranged from her uptight daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her grandson. John Wood and Lena Olin also turn in strong supporting roles.
Art house film addicts will want to see this, but more mainstream viewers may be bored. Recommended for viewers who enjoy the leisurely unfolding of a quiet drama."
A great emotional lift.
Atheen M. Wilson | Mpls, MN United States | 10/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lasse Hallstrom's film version of the Joanne Harris' novel Chocolat is as delightful a confection as were the heroines' chocolate creations themselves. The plot is intricate and intriguing, carrying the viewer through the emotional transformations of each of the main characters. In a sleepy medieval French town where life has assumed a repressive structure that has created an emotionally frozen and empty life for even the most highly placed members of its society, the heroine Vianne and her daughter arrive to set up a chocolate shop. With her wonderfully concocted sweets she manages to liberate some of the denizens of the town, revealing their potential for greater happiness. The story has a sense of myth, fantasy, and fairytale about it that leaves the viewer with a feeling of personal satisfaction.
This is a film full of strong female performers. Judi Dench is especially wonderful as a curmudgeonly elderly woman estranged from her daughter and forbidden to see her grandson. Juliette Binoche does a fine job as the heroine. She is as fragile and seductive as Monroe in some scenes and as forceful and independent as Bacall in others. Lena Olin is wonderful as the abused wife who rises from the confusion and ashes of her own ruined personality like a phoenix under the influence of the heroine. This is one of the best movies I've seen in a ling while, and I expect to order and read the book upon which it was based--something I rarely do."
A bittersweet tale enhanced by a superb ensemble cast
Michael J. Mazza | Pittsburgh, PA USA | 05/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Chocolat" tells a fable-like story of a young single mother (played by Juliette Binoche) who, with her young daughter, drifts into a small French village in the mid-20th century. She sets up a chocolate shop, but her efforts to bring some fun to the repressed villagers bring her into conflict with the town's tyrannical mayor (well played by Alfred Molina)."Chocolat" is beautiful to see and hear. The fanciful sets and the playful score by Rachel Portman enhance the fairy tale atmosphere of the story. Although there are some unsatisfying loose threads in the script, the story as a whole is delightful. And while the film's message--about the importance of tolerance--may be a bit obvious, it's still worth thinking about.Director Lasse Hallstrom showed his skill at handling a large ensemble cast in "the Cider House Rules," and he does an equally satisfying job here. And what a cast! Juliette Binoche is excellent in the lead role; both elegant and earthy, she is an enthralling screen presence. The great Judi Dench sinks her teeth into a supporting role as a grouchy landlady who has a tender spot for her young grandson. Johnny Depp is charming as Binoche's love interest, and Hugh O'Conor is absolutely delightful as the baby-faced village priest who secretly loves the music of Elvis. To sum up, "Chocolat" is an appealing comedy-drama with some real touches of magic."