Screen Reviews


Directed by Lasse Hallström

Starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, and Alfred Molina

This got nominated for “Best Picture”??? Dude…

On the other hand, let’s look at it this way: first of all, why’d I go see a “chick flick”? Has David Lee Beowülf softened after a year’s partial sabbatical and all the violence he witnessed? Heck no! My woman held a gun to my head and forced me to do it!


Right, so I’m dragged to a movie that, judging from the poster, I’m going to hate; I am resolved, however, to just sit there and shut up and suffer through a couple of hours of PG 13 sitcom harumph.

Well, well, well, wasn’t I surprised! This all-star cast (mostly old farts, but who doesn’t recognize Leslie Caron?) presentation is the slickest horror movie I’ve seen in the last, at least, fifteen years. Horror movie? You bet! First of all, though Chocolat is pretty much billed as a “romantic comedy,” I challenge anyone to find more than ten minutes of “romance” and even less “comedy.” Secondly, some savvy reviewers have cast it as a “fable,” which it is not, though none of them have the ‘nads to tell the truth: this is a tale of highest-level supernatural horror. I had this pegged about twenty minutes into the movie, and barely resisted crying out “she’s a witch!” at the screen. Read on, but I warn you, this is a SPOILER.

Juliette Binoche, who’s been in a few other movies I probably don’t care about but you might, plays Vianne Rocher, a self-starting single mom who shows up with a strange North Wind in a provincial French village. This particular French village is two things: quiet and Roman Catholic. Thus, Vianne’s setting up her strange Mayan chocolate shoppe during the holy anti-festival of Lent is not necessarily smiled upon by the local Town Father, the Comte de Reynaud played by Alfred Molina, who’s also been in lots of movies, I’m sure.

I did say “Mayan” chocolate shoppe, right? That’s what tipped me off: the Mayans were big fans of ritual human sacrifice, and Vianne has decorated her store with many a Mayan artifact, including a few altars, how strange… How equally strange that her daughter, Anouk (played by little French girl Victoire Thivisol) spins a wheel and asks customers what they see in it… And what’s with Vianne being able to divine a customer’s “favorite” chocolate… Hmm…

Well, the mayor (that’s the Comte de Reynaud) won’t have any of this! This chocolate is making everyone happy and forgetting that during Lent they’re supposed to avoid nice things! And, of course, he tells Vianne flat out that a prominent ancestor of his kicked the Huguenots out of town – that would be God-fearing Fundamentalist Protestants, as opposed to the idol worshipping, Vatican-controlled French RC’s – and thus she would be but a brief annoyance. Things look bad for Vianne, that is, until, with a South Wind in comes another demon, in disguise as a “hippie” played by Johnny Depp, to give her a hand. Even so, the demon double team has its work cut out: the mayor is in league with a young priest…

Ahhh, another North Wind is brewing, which means Vianne must be ready to leave as that’s her cue, and failure is unacceptable; the demon of the South Wind got booted out of town earlier. But, the young priest is swayed by seeing how happy the townspeople are and how their lives have changed – for the better, it seems, though they’re kind of abandoning Church dogma, hmm… – simply by eating this magical chocolate, and he lets his guard down. The mayor cannot beat the triple team…

Satan, the Prince and Power of the Air, wins, and as a reward the demons get to stop their constant town-hopping and settle down together, clearly as friends, or better, teammates, not lovers. Go see the movie with this in mind and you’ll understand that I’m not out of my gourd.

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