Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
Chocolat, a luscious film exploring the theme of indulgence, is a perfect one to watch right now.
Based on the book by Joanne Harris, the movie focuses on a small French village, which Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) governs strictly. Under the guise of religion, the comte’s stringent precepts are actually desperate measures to hold his own desires in check. From dealing with the reality that his absent wife will never return to his out-of-control and unforgettable foray devouring sin-assigned chocolate in the shop’s window, Alfred Molina is a marvel to watch once again (see the review of Enchanted April).
Charm of a Temptress: Restless and Rebellious Chocolate Shop Owner
Equally mesmerizing is Juliette Binoche as the chocolate shop owner Vianne Rocher, who the wind blows into town right before Lent. The extraordinarily talented actress, with onion skin that conveys emotions just under the surface, embodies Vianne’s restless and rebellious spirit with the charm of a temptress. Luring everyone from lost souls to the elderly in her chocolate shop, Vianne Rocher has the gift of guessing their favorite sweet treat while befriending newly arrived gypsies.
One of the Most Emotionally Charged Cinematic Scenes: Threat of Devastating Loss
At the center of the latter group, Johnny Depp (Roux) is the ideal match for Juliette Binoche‘s feisty character who is resistant to settling down with any man in any town. Despite their free spirits, Vianne and Roux form a strong alliance on the outskirts of town, reflecting the flame that threatens to harm Vianne’s daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), one terrifying evening. In one of the most emotionally charged cinematic scenes, Johnny Depp‘s character Roux tries to help Juliette Binoche‘s Vianne through this nightmare, which ultimately turns their previously fly-by-night natures into ashes.
Complex Characters, Hitting Full Range of Notes, Shape Their Own Destinies
Judi Dench, as Armande Voizin, delivers another exquisite performance, demonstrating her mastery playing diverse roles (see the review of Victoria & Abdul with Judi Dench). As the diabetic elderly woman who is also determined to shape her own destiny in Chocolat, the actress hits the full range of notes from cranky to endearing with perfect pitch. Along with a talented ensemble including Lena Olin as the troubled Josephine Muscat who discovers independence with Vianne’s support, the film Chocolat is a rich and deeply satisfying movie experience.