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Chocolat

Starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judi Dench, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Johnny Depp
Screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs
from the novel by Joanne Harris
Directed by Lasse Hallström
website: www.miramax.com

IN SHORT: Tasty adult dateflick. [Rated PG-13 for a scene of sensuality and some violence. 121 minutes]

As we rip through the month of December juggling mind numbing dead-on serious Oscar wannabees with stunts galore kidflicks, it is a rare pleasure to sit through a simple fable for us far-from-teenaged folk. Director Lasse Hallström's Chocolat is such a film. We can only hope that it doesn't vanish into the haze along with similarly enjoyable adult fare such as Billy Elliot and Almost Famous.

There is a small town in the land of France, where little has changed in many years. The mayor, le Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), of noble stock, watches over his village like a hawk. Its morals and habits, the sermons of the new priest, all fall under his watchful and paternal eye. If Reynaud had a more sensual distraction -- his woman is long gone, with only a picture on his desk to inspire him -- he probably wouldn't have reacted as he did when a mysterious woman came to town, selling that most sinful taste sensation, chocolate.

When Travelers come to small European towns, it usually means a tale of deceit and theft. In this case, the new arrival is Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) who brings with her an illegitimate daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) and a 2,000 year old recipe for hot chocolate inherited from her South American born mother. Reynaud is incensed! Furious! I tell you! that this brazen woman would open a chocolate shoppe in his town during Lent.

The gentle and good folk of the town stare longingly at the wonders in the shoppe's windows as Reynaud wages a war of gossip and sermons -- he gives detailed notes to the new priest who is eager to find favor in town -- determined to bring order back to his town. Order? you ask? Why, the old folk are having sex! The addled Josephine (Lena Olin) has left her devoted husband Serge (Peter Stormare) to take up employ in le Chocolaterie Maya! Old lady Armande (Judi Dench) is sneaking visits with her grandson Luc (Aurelien Parent Koenig), even after the mom in the middle (Carrie-Anne Moss) has forbidden it! That mom, by the way, works for le Comte, who is too distraught to notice her obvious attraction.

To make Reynaud's life even more miserable, boatloads of real Travelers, led by the Irish accented Roux (Johnny Depp) tie up at the docks on the river. Soon, Roux and Vianne have formed an alliance against Reynaud's brand of morality, and things get very interesting . . .

If you could smell and taste what was seen on the big screen, you'd all be in big trouble. Not us. We lost those senses years ago. We ogled the women and enjoyed this fable in which simple pleasures overcome stringent ethic.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Chocolat, he would have paid...

$4.50

Chocolat is an enjoyable dateflick for us fogeys, and most of us old folk snuggle up in front of the telly when the kids are down for the count. This movie will work very nicely in those circumstances.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.