Reviewed September 16th, 2001 by Brian White
Correct me if Iím wrong: in the ads for Chocolat, didnít they represent the film as an almost rollicking tale about a stuck up town that has a breath of fresh air blown into it by a lady and her chocolate? Wasnít there the suggestion in the commercial that the chocolate was in fact an aphrodisiac? Certainly, the film looked like a light-hearted comedy in a beautiful setting, like Kenneth Brannaghís Much Ado About Nothing. These representations about the film arenít incorrect, but they are a little misleading. What we get instead the promised fluffy fare is a drama. Chocolat is a beautiful movie. It is very much an American movie trying to be a European film.
In the film, Julliette Binoche plays an exotic, wandering spirit who enters a very close-minded town, and makes things better. Sheís kind of like the Lone Ranger, but no horse or Native American sidekick. She uses chocolate to make people appreciate the little things in life. Nowhere in the film are the implied revelations and transfigurations. The differences made are subtler than those inferred in the promotional material. I came away from Chocolat wishing it was more like the film advertised: a comedy about a little town that opens up. This movie, though beautifully shot and performed, falls a little short of what it wanted to be. Itís a pleasant way to spend an evening and little else.
There is a great cast of characters in this film; however, I do not endorse any film with Carrie-Anne Moss where she doesnít wear a cat suit. Judi Dench is great, as is Alfred Molina. Johnny Depp plays a great piker (having just seen Snatch, I couldnít help it). This movie doesnít add up to the sum of its parts, and thatís sad.
The video transfer on this disc is beautiful. It is an anamorphic, 1.85:1 transfer. I cannot say enough about how wonderfully shot this film is. The pretty little town, which is used for the exteriors, is almost dream-like. This transfer, with that slight film-like grain, really looks like an expensive, artsy film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is almost entirely toward the front, but is appropriate for the subject matter. This mix is nothing to write home about, but there isnít anything wrong with it. The music and dialog, though mostly to the front, is well represented.
This is a Miramax special edition, and like the audio mix, there is just enough in the extras department to satisfy. You get a rather informative commentary track with director Lasse Hallstrom and the producers. Strangely, thereís a disclaimer at the beginning of the commentary to distance opinions heard on the track from those of Miramax or Disney. The pre-requisite Miramax featurette on costumes is here, as well as a rather promotional ďmaking ofĒ featurette. You also get trailers and deleted footage.
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