"Chocolat" is kind of like "the Music Man," only without the music, the
exuberance, and Professor Harold Hill.
In this case, the attractive stranger is Juliet Binoche's Vianne, a kind
of gypsy-guru of things chocolat, and the town she throws upside down
is a little French village into which she and her daughter Anouk arrive.
This is France of 1959, an uptight place dominated by the mayor (Alfred
Molina) and its commitment to Catholicism.
Vianne has the audacity to open a Chocolaterie during Lent, which rubs
all the usual suspects the wrong way. Her shop, and her lifestyle (she
doesn't go to church and is a proud and unapologetic unwed mother) sets
off a controversy that threatens to split the town in half, with the powers
that be and the citizenry who blindly follow them on one side and the
freer spirits on the other. Yessiree, it's liberals versus conservatives
again, and you can just guess which side receives the favorable treatment.
The arrival of a group of nomadic "river rats" led by Johnny Depp doesn't
help. The mayor, who happily pulls the town's strings, finds these immoral
itinerants to be a threat also and organizes a boycott against them.
But Vianne's chocolates, which almost seem to have mysterious powers,
continue to win over - and magically inspire - increasing numbers of villagers
who start to throw off the yoke of conformity and live their lives the
way they really want to regardless of peer pressure from their neighbors.
It's the '60's all over again - before they even start!
The cast is excellent, particularly Binoche and Judi Dench (both of whom
were nominated for Oscars for their performances). Johnny Depp makes a
believable and likeable wandering Irishman (complete with accent), and
Alfred Molina does a good job as the village "godfather" who does his
business with gusto, yet who also carries the thankless burden of command
upon his shoulders.
It's a pretty good movie, and quite enjoyable, though we daresay it isn't
as good as all the hype would make out.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, with
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Picture and sound quality are both excellent,
and the DVD medium does good justice to the film's beautiful production
Extras include a "making of" documentary, feature commentary with director
Lasse Hallstrom and the producers, as well as a feature on the film's
costumes and another one on the production design. There are also some
Chocolat, from Alliance Atlantis Home Video
122 min, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible,
Starring Juliet Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny
Produced by David Brown, Kit Golden, Leslie Holleran
Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, Directed by Lasse Hallstrom.
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