Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA/United Kingdom 2000
Directed by
Lasse Hallstrom
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


One chocolate is good, two better, a box full, not a good idea. It is somewhat surprising that the makers of this film didn’t realize this as they stuff sweetness down our necks well beyond the point of enjoyment.

Hallström had great success with the economical crowd-pleaser, My Life As A Dog, and the glossy The Cider House Rules, both also set in the 1950s, and so in some respects was a good choice of director for this exquisitely picturesque film based on a novel by Joanne Harris although a more critical editorial eye should have pruned the director’s tendency to visual and performative cliché.

Somewhat reminiscent of a reductive Like Water For Chocolate and without that film’s inspiration or grace, it tells how the citizens of a remote French village throw off the yoke of tradition, inspired by the wares of an itinerant chocolatiere. Juliette Binoche is Vianne, the chic chocolate-maker who mysteriously blows into the petite ville and sets up shop in an abandoned bakery with no visible means of support other than three poorly playing customers. The film never really drops below its eye-pleasing agenda despite a couple of incongruous crises largely provided by career bad guy, Peter Stormare. Once Johnny Depp drifts up the river as some kind of Irish Django Reinhardt hipster dude, looking like nothing the 1950s ever saw, the whole thing tends to become a shapeless pudding of undisciplined indulgence as the film works its overlong way to the inevitable resolution.

Given its fantastical premise Chocolat seems to have been intended as a fable and this is where Hallström, whose strong suit is fastidiously mounted, highly sentimental period pieces was not a good choice. Essentially Vianne is a kind of witch who purposely appears as the township is heading into Lent, evidently an emissary of pagan forces sent to break the bonds of the repressive Catholic status quo. Chocolate is the means by which she attracts converts to her purpose.  Hallström largely ignores this supernatural aspect, something which was so well integrated in Like Water For Chocolate and literalizes it as a feelgood fantasy romance temptingly packaged but ultimately too sweet for its own good.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst