Lusciously enchanting with a near perfect blend of humor and pathos. Chocolat is an entirely satisfying movie-going experience. A simple story beautifully filmed which features one of the best ensembles in any recent movie. Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp all bring their considerable experience and talent to this story, which is matched in skill by the wonderful script and Lasse Halstrom’s exquisite direction.
Set in a small village in France in the late nineteen-fifties, Chocolat tells the story of a woman and her daughter who travel from place to place making and selling the most extraordinary chocolate confections. When she decides to settle in this particular village just as their holy season of lent is beginning she offends and makes an enemy of the village mayor, a devoutly conservative and religious man. She soon has the support and affection of many of the village residents including an aging, caustic diabetic and a woman escaping an abusive husband. The dialogue is sharp and powerful; for example when the woman’s husband tells her that they are still married in the sight of God, she replies ‘Then he must be blind.’
Enter Roux, the riverboat gypsy who falls in love with Vianne and her magical chocolates. The romance between these two outcasts is touching and sensual. The attraction between them is immediate and completely believable.
Chocolat really tells two stories simultaneously. Vianne who is finally able to bury the ghost of her mother, symbolized by the north wind, which whenever it begins to blow signifies to her that she must move on to a new place. The other story is of the mayor Comte de Reynaud, who is brought face to face with his own hypocrisies and misplaced blame in the funniest scene in the film which I won’t spoil by detailing here.
For classic movie fans there is the delight of seeing the original Gigi herself, Leslie Caron in a very rare movie appearance. Though it is a fairly small role as the widow Audel it only adds to the all around sumptuousness of Chocolat, which is as warm, rich and inviting as the hot chocolate served on-screen.