Main cast: Juliette Binoche (Vianne Rocher), Victoire Thivisol (Anouk Rocher), Johnny Depp (Rouk), Alfred Molina (Comte de Reynaud), Hugh O’Conor (Pere Henri), Lena Olin (Josephine Muscat), Peter Stormare (Serge Muscat), Judi Dench (Amande Voizin), Carrie-Anne Moss (Caroline Claimont), and Aurelien Parent-Koening (Luc Claimont)
Director: Lasse Hallström
What a disappointment. I waited all this while for… this? A tired, clichéd movie? Chocolat is sweet, frothy, delicious to the eyes, but is so predictable that after one hour I feel as if I’ve eaten too many chocolates: I want to throw up from the cloying sweetness in my throat.
The story is about chocolate-maker extraordinaire Vianne and her daughter Anouk moving into a 1959 French town where Tradition rules. As if Vianne and Anouk’s flowing red robes aren’t blatantly obvious enough that they are not going to be welcome here, that is. The Comte de Reynaud, the mayor, will do his best to drive them out, but chocolate will win the day, yes?
There’s the bitter old lady played by Judi Dench, but Ms Dench’s dignified and mesmerizing screen presence can’t bring her role to life. Her Amande Voizin, hag with the heart of gold, is here to, well, what do old ladies do at the end of “heartwarming” stories? Well, she does that here. There’s the abused-wife-turned-heroine’s-best-friend here too. The kids who are so sweet they probably piss chocolate milk. The stupid abusive husband. The repressed wife. The doddering hypocritical politician.
Oh, and Johnny Depp plays Fabio to Binoche’s Esmeralda. Their romance is so corny that it reminds me of an overwrought Barbara Cartland movie.
Juliette Binoche plays her role like a queen, and her Vianne is the best thing about this fluffy movie. But there is too little meat to savor in Chocolat. It’s like cheap chocolate – too much sugar, not enough of the real thing.