Directed by Lasse Hallström
Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on the novel by Joanne Harris
Starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Judi Dench
My Advice: Wait and Rent It.
Vianne (Binoche) comes from a long line of wanderers, spreading the good word and the good chocolate, with her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) in tow. She just so happens to have wandered into a sleepy little French town circa 1959. She rents a shop and begins to get ready to open her confectionary shoppe for the benefit of the entire burg--but she's doing all of this right before Lent, which doesn't sit well with the town's mayor (Molina). Before long, the battle lines are drawn: the establishment versus the iconoclastic chocoholics. Who will win? Three guesses.
You know, for the longest time, try as I might, I couldn't find any fault with this film. Of course, I couldn't find anything really great to say about it either. Until I realized that the film is simply Footloose, just trade Binoche for Bacon and chocolate for dancing. Oh sure, there's other details, but this film is just another neophilic feelgood fest. Not that there's anything wrong with those on the surface. But when everything's just on the surface--then you have a problem.
Which is honestly surprising, considering the depth of the talent this cast brings to the table. Not that they phone in their performances, but honestly--with a script and premise this fluffy, there's only so much you can do. The standouts among the cast are Dench, playing a crotchety old widow separated from her daughter and grandson, and Depp, as a gypsy who plays guitar. But then again, they'd be good in commercials for pine floor cleaner. But the trouble is, they're all playing the same characters we've seen time and time again: The Abusive Husband (Peter Stormare), The Misunderstood Local Crackpot (Olin), and The Mean Authority Figure With Something to Compensate For (Molina). That's all well and good if that's all you're aiming for, but this film feels to me like it was supposed to Mean Something--and maybe it does, but I just couldn't get into it.
I can't go into how the plot stays as vanilla as can be without ruining what little surprise there is to be had in the film. But even with the fairytale feel of the opening, the resolution of conflict in the film feels too pat. The trouble is honestly that they should have saved some of that cayenne they were using in their cocoa and sprinkled it on the script instead.
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