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August 25, 2010

Chocolat (2000)
Director: Lasse Hallström
Actors: Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin

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Synopsis: A mysterious chocolatier (Juliette Binoche) arrives in a stuffy old French town, and begins to stir up ‘trouble’ with her creations.

Review: If you’ll pardon the pun, on paper, the sickly ingredients of this cinematic confection seems to invite ridicule. Just look at the elements to the film: a prodigiously funded, mainstream adaptation of a highly popular piece of chick lit, replete with a regulation gaggle of bankable star names supposedly representing a twee French town but in English accents. It all seems to point to certain disaster, but within its very cosmetic conception of itself it somehow works, and its various whimsical elements – pathetic fallacy, the faux exoticism, the unsubtle pagan-religious dichotomy – seem to merge coherently into a charming whole.

After the opening few minutes when one starts to assimilate this little universe that Hallström has created, and accept that no one actually speaks in French, the charm of the piece emerges. Helping the film’s integrity is that it’s brilliantly acted, with each of the main players – Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench – somehow creating believable characters out of potentially stereotypical roles and situations. (November 2008)

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