ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE: BEST PICTURE
The arrival of a talented confectionery artist in a small staid town reawakens innocent sensuality and stimulates a civil rebellion. [Dir: Lasse Hallstršm/ Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judi Dench/ 121min/ Comedy, Romance/ Government Enforced Morality, Social Tolerance]
Depicted here, through dramatic events in a small French town, is the titanic struggle between moral authoritarianism and…chocolate.
The protagonist is a talented young confectionery artist and businesswoman. She opens a chocolate shop in this quaint little town only to find that chocolate is forbidden by the town mayor, a man opposed to indulgence of any kind especially during the then ongoing season of Lent. He uses his power and influence to cut off demand in order to shut her down.
A woman of some resolve and creative resource, she responds with a barrage of free samples and masterpieces of chocolate creation so irresistible that the people of this town one by one rebel against the mayor who has heretofore controlled them. That is, one by one they enter her shop and buy her chocolate. And that’s just the beginning.
As the mayor had feared, this slight crack in the wall of puritanical abstinence awakens in people the sense that life isn’t something simply to be endured but enjoyed. Despite the mayor’s ongoing machinations, pretty soon battered women are leaving their brutal husbands, long-postponed love is at last expressed, and in general dancing and merriment ensue. As chocoholics have long argued, chocolate is clearly the key to a better world.
This film is not only a transparent attack on moral authoritarianism, but also an admonition against the whole idea that the dead hand of the past should be allowed–through force, intimidation, or mere habit–to stop positive change in the present. Told in the form of a comic fable, this sweet if simplistic story has all the fable elements: Good, as represented by the heroic chocolate artist; Bad, as represented by the authoritarian mayor; a little magic; and a moral. Juliette Binoche is charming in the leading role and is supported by a first-rate cast. If you like compassion, tolerance, and innocent pleasures, then you’ll like Chocolat.