Following an Oscar season of seven nominations for The Cider House Rules (1999), director Lasse Hallstrom decided to embark on the adventure of a film adapted from Joanna Harris' novel; Chocolat (2000). The film is about a travelling medicine woman, Vianne Rocher played by the glorious Juliette Binoche(1997 Oscar winner), whose methods are a little different than you might think. Vianne and her daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), arrive in a small French town with large and rigid Catholic morals. The story follows Vianne as David and the Comte de Renaud (brilliantly played by Alfred Molina) as Goliath in a fight to the death over paganism and organized religion, discipline and indulgence or even control and freedom. Of course, like any good chic-flick, Goliath isn't really Goliath but more of a David with a superiority complex who you really feel bad for as the movie progresses.
Unfortunately Ebert and Yahoo! Movies have failed me with no record of reviews for this film but I can relay that Rotten Tomatoes gives it a slightly disappointing 62% on it's fresh meter. I can also say that the Academy thought highly of this film giving it five nominations including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (the incredible Dame Judi Dench), Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. I also watched the making-of featurette on the DVD that told me the Los Angeles Times called it "a splendid work of artistry and craftsmanship". The heart, as producer Leslie Hollerman says it, of this movie is the three generations of "such strong and varied" women who come together to support each other in a movie about generation gaps. That is where the chic-flick lies. Hallstrom also adds that this film has "very vivid and textured portrayals of women that are wonderful role models for any contemporary woman".
Basically, this is up there with my favourite movies of all time. I love it's respect for younger generations; even Vianne, free spirit and all, relaizes that she is caught up in her own strict tradition created by her mother that severely affects Vianne, that she has forced her daughter into accepting. This movie is about the good things in life that you shouldn't deny yourself and as a chocolaholic I am very grateful for the message. And speaking of guilty pleasures, how appropriate for my blog, dontcha think?
Favourite quotes: "Who says I can't use a skillet?"- Josephine, "I hear she's an atheist."- Boy #1, "What's that?"- Boy #2"I don't know. "- Boy #1, "We can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist and who we exclude. I think we ought to measure goodness by what we embace, what we create and who we include." - Pere Henri
Best performance: Like another one of my favourites, I say the ensemble. Well done, all.
Chemistry level: 5/5. With this ensemble, how can you go wrong? Writer, Robert Nelson Jacobs calls this film "an ensemble movie" in which he actually added characters to make the story resonate in a more Global way. For more on the ensemble, stay tuned.
Best love story: In a film with many love stories (requiremed in an ensemble film) there is one that is short, sweet and rarely seen. Not to mention it features Leslie Caron, the most gorgeous 70 year-old alive, and who you might recognize from a little musical called Gigi (1958). It also features a charming dog and John Wood in a love story for an older audience.
Best revenge moment: It's a tie between when Serge claims that they're "still married in the eyes of God" to which Josephine replies "Then He must be blind". Next is a very dramatic scene involving Josephine, Serge and a skillet. This moment definitely deserves an independent-woman booyah! Also, the Comte de Renaud, in a decreasing mental state, starts to cut up his wife's dresses. As annoying of a guy as he is, you can't help but be happy that he indulges in some form of pleasure by this point of the film.
History of chocolate: Originally a drink called cacao by the Mayans and Aztecs, it was said to have magical properties that were mostly an aphrodisiac. Chocolate is also known to produce high amounts of serotonin and endorphins in the human brain. One of the best scenes in the movie is a table of people eating in slow motion; a great visual example of the magical feeling of eating chocolate.
A question of bad taste: This movie questions the basis for good and bad taste that is stereotyped by people like the ones in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Young Luc (Aurelien Parent Koenig) is ashamed for liking horror stories and grotesque images like his grandmere, Armande (Dench). But he is also a great artist. Pere Henri (Hugh O'Conor) is looked down upon by the Comte de Renaud for singing and dancing to Elvis and even Guillaume Blerot (Wood) is chastised for thinking his dog, Charlie, has a soul.
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny: Half way through the movie we get this little surprise... Johnny Depp! He's definitely one of the best actors of his generation and I can't believe he hasn't won anything yet. This is also one of my favourite performances by him and an unlikely one at that. Mr. Depp has made it known that he doesn't like to be pretty or attractive onscreen and therefore does not usually take roles that look anything like a romantic lead; but look at him now in a verified chick flick and everything. He's a Gypsy with an Irish accent, a wavy ponytail and some serious guitar picking skills; there's nothing left to say.
Fun tidbit: Producer, David Brown (you know, the guy who did Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, and The Verdict), says this is his favourite movie he has ever produced because it is so "beloved by all" which is rare and very different from a "hit" that he is used to.