2000, Movies

Chocolat (2000, Lasse Hallstrom)

An overly religious, stuck-up town is saved by a magical fairy woman who makes chocolates that bring the town back to life. What a wonderful premise for a movie.

There are so many ways in which this is not my kind of movie – and one wonders why the hell I bothered to see it – but I want to assert that, in addition to being not my thing, it’s just not very good.

Firstly, there’s the casting and the decision of some of the actors to speak with French accents and others to speak in their own voices. Somebody should have made a decision. The correct decision would for the actors to focus on acting and not on accents, especially in the case of Carrie Ann Moss, who should not do a French accent. But if they were determined to have some speak in French accents, then they should make everyone. (I maintain that it makes zero sense for anyone speaking in English in a non-English speaking country to speak in that country’s accent. But anyway). So the accents are annoying, to put it mildly. (And this is what happens when you cast people from all over the world to be in an English movie set in France.)

But that’s only the most obvious problem. The bigger problem is the story, which is an old one, and this one is not a very subtle iteration of the story. There is a place where people aren’t happy for some reason or other and an outsider comes in and makes everyone rediscover the joys of being alive. From the very beginning, everything is telegraphed and everyone appears to be inhabiting archetypes in this old story, rather than actual characters. Molina in particular is just a caricature but virtually everyone feels wasted, given the quality of the cast. That would be less of a problem if you didn’t feel like you knew exactly what will happen and if you didn’t get such a sense of extreme unreality from everything.

And the dialogue is painful at times, with cliches spewing from the mouths of otherwise excellent actors.

I get that it’s meant as a fairy tale but, for a modern fairy tale to be truly successful, something about it needs to connect with us in some way. But everything about this film feels from another time, not just the story. (I guess that’s the appeal.)

(Also, the way they treat chocolate is as if it’s some kind of drug. I guess maybe, in a society without alcohol or caffeine or cigarettes or other drugs, this might be believable, but it sure feels hard to believe chocolate as a metaphor for release.)

But everything looks nice and I can’t fault the film in any technical way. So I guess I have to grant that it isn’t a complete wreck.


PS The fact that this film got nominated for five Oscars is an indictment of the Academy and yet more proof that we should pay no attention to the Oscars because they do not care about whether movies are good or not.

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