Foodie Film Reviews: Chocolat
Movie Review: Chocolat
When was the last time you watched a film that didn’t hold back? The last time a rather successful mainstream flick not only incorporated every taboo in the book but also highlighted them? The last time a film asked you to confront the controversies of pleasure, temptation, religion, and morality? And most importantly, when was the last time you watched a movie that made you wonder all these aforementioned questions through the use of food? I can guarantee your answer is never unless you’ve seen Lasse Halström’s piece, Chocolat. Released in 2000, and starring the wonderfully refreshing Juliette Binoche (trust me, you’ve seen at least two movies that star her you just don’t know it) this movie is all about confronting your desires. And what better way to do that than through chocolate?
Honestly, it would be no fun for me to give away what happens as it was a surprising film that, although ultimately predictable, came with many twists and turns and was surprisingly poignant and complex. But here’s what you need to know: free spirit, non-churchgoing Vianne and her daughter relocate to a town that is all about conservative Christian traditions—we’re talking complete refrain for Lent, judgment if you don’t attend mass each Sunday, etc. etc.—and decides to open up a Mayan chocolatier shop, during Lent. Both Vianne’s shop and personality quickly give her an unsettling reputation around town and the mayor becomes almost a crusader against all that she stands for, demanding that the townsfolk avoid her alluring chocolates so that she will go out of business. Not your everyday plot line for a romantic film. And romantic it is, whether it be the formation of unconventional love stories (an older man falling for a widow, the mayor and his secretary, Vianne and Johnny Depp—yeah he’s in it, so if you weren’t sold before you’d better be now), the creation of surprising friendships, the reconnection of families or just the enjoyment of chocolate, romance exudes the film. I know this seems like I painted a messy picture but I can assure you it all comes together in a really smart way, and for that I give the director credit.
That being said, this won’t be the best film you’ve ever seen. It’s different in many ways but it still ends in the storybook cliché. But that’s okay; you don’t love every chocolate you try but you love to try all the different kinds. And with that mediocre transition let’s get to the reason I’m even reviewing this movie at all: the chocolate! Vianne is not hesitant to share her Mayan roots and utilizes a unique chili powder in her sometimes unrefined hot cocoa and a few of her chocolates. Although not much is explained beyond this, the reception these chili-infused delights get in the movie make your mouth curious as to what the taste would be. Not as curious but just as eye-catching are the many, many, many (can I say the word enough?) scenes that just involve melted chocolate being stirred and poured and crafted and eaten and melted and shaped and yes, it was an experience. It is particularly helpful that Vianne takes on an apprentice of sorts slightly into the film, as there are a few scenes where the two are in the kitchen and Vianne is explaining the chocolate process—a treat for both the eyes and the culinary-inclined.
Controversy, romance, passions, and chocolate all come together in this star-studded film in a way that I can guarantee you have never seen before. If you’re even the slightest foodie and probably even if you’re not, Chocolat is definitely worth the watch.
Cover image source.