A Frenchwoman opens up a chocolate shop in a religiously moral
community, shaking up the status quo and changing everyone's lives.
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Written by Robert Nelson Jacobs
Starring Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Alfred Molina,
Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Peter Stormare, Carrie-Anne Moss
Based on the novel by Joanne Harris
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actress (Juliette Binoche), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score (Rachel Portman)
When doing these Best Picture Showdowns for our Oscar Sunday podcast, it's very rare that we get a complete set of five great films. More often than not, there's always at least one straggler that doesn't quite add up to the rest. In the case of the 73rd Academy Awards, that film was Chocolat, a quaint little dramedy about a French village filled with people who have convinced themselves that God wants them to be miserable, and the woman who shows up to change their minds. It's not a bad movie, but it didn't deserve to be up for Best Picture and it hasn't stood the test of time.
I will give credit where it is due. The performances are top notch, led by the impeccable Juliette Binoche as Vianne, a Frenchwoman who loves life and wants to use her unique recipe for chocolates to help people recover their zest for the gift of life. Of course, there's always a stick in the mud who won't let anyone be happy. Here, it's the mayor, played by Alfred Molina, who sees Vianne and her chocolate shop as an affront to God and a tool of Satan. So, the entire movie, he actively tries to destroy her shop and send her packing. That's pretty much it. Also, Johnny Depp plays an Irish rover with a French name.
It's just not a very compelling story, especially when stacked up against the four films it was competing against back in 2001. French people won't let themselves be happy, and the chocolate lady is way too forgiving when people try to either kill her or kill her dream. But it's got its audience.