Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chocolat (2000)

It's Lent. Have you given something up?
Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter open a chocolaterie upon their arrival to a small, stuffy French town, where order, modesty and conformity are valued above all else. The townspeople are shocked by the woman's audacity to open a chocolate shop during Lent, her status as an unwed single parent, and by her befriending of the local misfits and outsiders.

I know what you're thinking. "'Becca'lise is a girl, this movie has Johnny Depp in it, OF COURSE she likes it." Come on. Mr. Depp is not in this movie too much, despite being all over the posters. My favorite acting performance is from Alfred Molina, who plays the mayor of the small town. He has taken it upon himself to destroy Vianne's efforts and stop the chaos he believes will be a result of her success. He's pretty funny despite his sternness, and while you want to hate him, you just can't. The whole cast turns out pretty good performances, actually, playing diverse characters with a multitude of backgrounds, from a battered woman taken in by Vianne to a new priest in town trying to win approval from the mayor.

What brings me back to this movie time and time again (NOT JOHNNY DEPP, GET OVER IT) is the lovely music and scenery. The little town is so brown and dreary and when Vianne and her daughter arrive, it's like bright bougainvillea flowers against a stone wall. The music goes from quaint to emphasize the quiet modesty of the town, to robust when gypsies arrive in the town with their guitars (okay, that's where Johnny Depp comes in, you got me), to mysterious and sensual when the audience learns about Vianne's family history as wanderers and the usually powerful properties of their chocolate.

Also, all the scenes of Vianne making her little treats for the shop will make you HUNGRY. It's not unlike the credits sequence in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except it has a more homemade appeal.

So, in a nutshell, Chocolat is a perfect feel-good movie to watch during Lent. I just hope you didn't give up chocolate. ;)

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