A woman and her six-year old daughter wander into a small and absolutely adorable French village to open a chocolatria – an amazing little shop that specializes in making the most beautiful and delicious chocolates. However, Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) and are quickly unwelcomed as the mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) of the town has a strong hold upon his religious community. Comte is not a bad person; he just has strong convictions that cloud his judgment. Because her refusal to attend mass and choosing to open her chocolate shop during lent she has now become enemy number one. Slowly gaining support by her generosity and her flavory delectables, Vianne begins to win over townspeople one by one. Think FOOTLOOSE with a little more dramatic sophistication.
Not to say CHOCOLAT isn’t funny. On the contrary it is covered in humor. Especially by Alfred Molina who once again proves he is an underutilized force in Hollywood. Molina gives an almost cartoon like performance in his resistance to temptation while still walking on the line of reality. Simply put, he’s great. Everyone else does an excellent job with all the different character subplots of love, abuse and reconnecting family. Sometimes those can be distracting or overbearing to a film but director Lasse Hallström balances them perfectly. They all help demonstrate the overall theme and further the plot along.
Grounding the film as a strong lead character, Juliette Binoche is wonderful as always. The supporting cast including Johnny Depp, Carrie-Anne Moss and Lena Olin all are fabulous in their minimal parts but the real standout (other than Molina) is Judi Dench as the cranky old woman who owns the building where Vianne has put up shop. The scene where she tastes her first sip of chocolate from her new tenant achieves so much. Performing the magnificent change before our eyes, she comes off completely natural. She wants so badly to complain about it but can’t help the elated feeling of joy the sweet warm chocolate gives her. As an outcast herself, she quickly becomes a powerful ally.
Back in 2000, CHOCOLAT perhaps was overly praised by the Academy with a nomination for Best Picture, but the other four nominations including Best Actress for Juliette Binoche, Supporting Actress for Judi Dench, Adapted Screenplay and Score are well deserved. The film holds up very well, not only as fun entertainment but also by using the timeless theme of loving and supporting one another no matter whom they are or where they come from.
One thing is for sure; you will definitely be craving chocolate after viewing CHOCOLAT. It made me rethink my profession. The idea of making and eating different kinds of chocolate sounds wonderful alone but after seeing it visualized in the film, I was quickly on sensory overload wanting to savor each tasty treat the film presented.
Video: (1080p High Definition 1.85:1) An excellent transfer that really brings out the beautiful art direction and costumes.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD MA) A solid audio track combining the vocals and score.
Audio Commentary with Director Lasse Hallstom and Producers David Brown, Kit Golden and Leslie Holleran: They do a good job talking throughout giving technical tidbits and gushing over the actors. It’s a pretty basic commentary that if you are a huge fan of the film you may find interesting.
The Making of Chocolat (28:41): A typical “making of” with actors and filmmakers discussing the film and character intertwined with scenes from the movie.
The Costumes of Chocolat (4:20): Costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus discusses her reasoning and style behind the different characters wardrobe.
Production Design Featurette (7:57): Production designer David Gropman discusses the little town and creating the exteriors and interiors to fit the story.
Deleted Scenes (7:11): Seven scenes, some are cute and some are a bad idea but all are unnecessary.