Brooke and I saw Chocolat last night. We always try to see all the best picture nominees so off we went. My review must begin with my suggestion for a revised title: Merde. It was sad to see such a great cast throw themselves into this ham-fisted “fable.” It’s all about the evils of tradition, as long as that tradition is male and Christian and European. The unnamed religion of Juliette Binoche’s character should be tolerated and embraced, even if it does lead her to hold a “fertility festival” of chocolate on Easter Sunday. Maybe she’s the one who started that damned Easter Bunny nonsense.
I haven’t even mentioned how ludicrous Johnny Depp’s character is, as an Irish gypsy. First of all, in a small village in France in 1959, would anyone speak English? No, but then why does Johnny Depp speak English with an Irish accent? And why is his character named Roux? And how does Lena Olin’s character transform from mentally unstable abused wife to assistant proprietress? Why, chocolate, of course. There are suggestions that chocolate can kindle sexual desire, which may be true. But the scenes of chocolate-induced debauchery are laughable. And tell me if I’m wrong. Has chocolate ever been banned by the Catholic Church? Of course, we get yet another ineffectual clergyman character, and several other characters whose Catholicism is portrayed as tyrannical.
There is just so much more that is maddening about this film that I’d love to see it again. Ok, well maybe not. I’ve heard that Miramax really “worked hard” to get this a nomination for best picture. I think it would win in a new category: “Best Fake Foreign Film.” What I think Miramax has done is to try to create a foreign film for people too dumb to read subtitles. Save your money and go see Like Water for Chocolate or Antonia’s Line or Babette’s Feast for similar territory covered much more skillfully.