Wednesday Rewind: Chocolat by @destroytheearth

Johnny Depp? Check. Juliette Binoche? Check. South of France setting? Check. Unspoken yearnings for members of the opposite sex? Check. Women triumphing over dictatorial men? Check. Vast quantities of chocolate? Check.

Chocolat is the ultimate chick-flick adaptation of the ultimate chick lit. Yet, does this fall in with the Twilight crowd or is there more to this sweet-toothed drama? Hit the jump to find out:

So, let's lay our cards on the table: I like this film. Yes, it may be sentimental and, yes, it may be geared towards middle-aged women, but there is also a lot of depth and creativity here as well.

The simple story of a chocolatier opening a chocolatrie in the middle of a small, religious town's lent and her attempts to convince her customers to embrace the desires her chocolate awakens branches off into a stream of inter-related chapters that follow the central theme. Yet, there is also a vein of folklore and magic that seems at once out of place and also in keeping with our protagonist's heretical status.

At its heart, rather than girl porn, this is a film that pits hedonism against Christian dogma, without demonising either. All but one character, whichever side they were on, gets a happy ending, and even the true villain never gets his comeupance. On the other hand, our protagonist Binoche, who is most definitely not a heroine, manages to knowingly cause the death of a main character and that isn't glossed over, though it is questioned whether this was, in fact, for the best.

In subtle, inoffensive tones we examine prejudice and racism, sexism and ageism, sex and family; and rarely is such an analysis so even-handed. Again, only the nefarious Peter Stormare is completely in the wrong and even his character is merely stupid. Ultimately, one side does not triumph by defeating the other, but by gaining mutual acceptance.

Still, this is not a dour, poe-faced, philosophical piece; there is humour and quaintness in abundance, yet, equally, it is not a film without bite. The characters have genuine, contradictory motivations for what they do and there are some hard questions asked, without easy answers being offered. Yes, it is a feel good film, but not one that ignores harsh truths.

The cast, by and large, is made up of talented also-rans from grander films, who prove their worth here. Molina again shows his range, while Moss is far more suitable when not clad in leather brandishing a pistol. Depp is here merely as eye candy, but he fills the role with such charm and endeavour that he becomes a larger character than his small part would suggest. Compare his performance to even Brad Pitt's bland role in Thelma and Louise. Binoche gives her character layers and conflict, while Dench gives one of the greatest performances of her career.

The narration may be obtrusive, but it rewards fans of the book and allows for the mythic excursions mentioned above. Perhaps it is over long, but this gives the plot strands room to breathe and is not such an issue on DVD. This is not a film to everyone's taste, but many will be surprised by how much they would enjoy it.

So, tell your wife and your mother you'll watch one of their films for once and quietly contemplate Chocolat. You may find you get more from it than brownie points.

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