Chocolat (2000 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lasse Hallström|
|Screenplay by||Robert Nelson Jacobs|
by Joanne Harris
|Music by||Rachel Portman|
|Edited by||Andrew Mondshein|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$152.7 million|
Chocolat (French pronunciation: [ʃɔkɔla]) is a 2000 romantic-drama film based on the 1999 novel Chocolat by the English author, Joanne Harris. It was directed by Lasse Hallström. Adapted by screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher, played by Juliette Binoche, who arrives in the fictional French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent with her six-year-old daughter, Anouk. She opens a small chocolaterie. Soon, she and her chocolate influence the lives of the townspeople of this repressed French community in different and interesting ways.
The film began a limited release in the United States on December 22, 2000, and went on general release on January 19, 2001. Critics gave the drama positive reviews, praising its acting performances, its screenplay and Rachel Portman's score. The film garnered a number of accolades, including many for its screenplay, direction, acting, and music. It received five nominations at the 73rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Binoche won the European Film Award for Best Actress for her performance, while Dench was awarded a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2001.
Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), an expert chocolatier and her six-year-old daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), drift across Europe following the north wind. In 1959, they travel to a quiet French village that closely adheres to tradition, as dominated by the village mayor, the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Just as the villagers begin observing the 40 days of Lent, Vianne opens a chocolate shop, much to Reynaud's displeasure.
Vianne wears more colourful clothing than the village women, does not ascribe to religious convention, and has an illegitimate child. She does not fit in well with the townspeople but is nevertheless optimistic about her business. With her friendly and alluring nature, she begins to make headway with some of the villagers. Reynaud speaks out against her for tempting the people during a time of abstinence and self-denial. The Comte will not admit that his wife has left him.
One of the first to fall under the spell of Vianne and her confections is Armande (Judi Dench), her elderly, eccentric landlady. Armande is unhappy that her cold, devoutly pious daughter Caroline (Carrie-Anne Moss) will not let her see her grandson Luc because Caroline thinks Armande is a "bad influence". Having lost her husband, Caroline is overly protective of Luc and does not even want her son to play. Vianne arranges for Luc and his grandmother to see each other in the chocolaterie, where they develop a close bond. Caroline later reveals to Vianne that her mother is a diabetic, though Armande continues to eat the chocolate despite her condition.
Vianne also develops a friendship with a troubled woman, Josephine (Lena Olin), who is a victim of brutal beatings by her abusive husband Serge (Peter Stormare). After her husband violently hits her and injures her head, Josephine leaves him and moves in with Vianne and Anouk. As she begins to work at the chocolate shop and Vianne teaches her the craft, Josephine becomes a self-confident, changed woman. At the same time, under the instruction of Reynaud, Serge, having seemingly changed into a better man, asks Josephine to come back to him. Finally happy and fulfilled on her own, Josephine declines his request. A drunken Serge breaks into the chocolaterie later that night and attempts to attack both women, before Josephine, in a moment of empowerment, knocks him out with a skillet.
As the rivalry between Vianne and Reynaud intensifies, a band of river Roma camp out on the outskirts of the village. While most of the town objects to their presence, Vianne embraces them, developing a mutual attraction to Roux (Johnny Depp). Together they hold a birthday party for Armande with other villagers and Romani on Roux's boat. When Caroline sees Luc, who sneaked out to the party, dancing with his grandmother, she begins to see how strict she has been with her son and that his grandmother's influence in his life may, after all, be beneficial. After the party, Josephine and Anouk fall asleep on a boat, while Roux and Vianne make love. Later that night, Serge sets fire to the boat where Josephine and Anouk are sleeping. Both escape unharmed, but Vianne's faith in the village is shaken. Luc helps Armande home from the party; her death soon after devastates both him and his mother. After the fire, Roux packs up and leaves with his group, much to Vianne's sadness.
Reynaud initially thought that the fire was divine intervention until Serge visits and confesses to starting the fire. Horrified at the thought that people could have been killed and fearing that the public would blame him for the arson, Reynaud demands that Serge leaves the village and never return.
With the return of the north wind, Vianne decides that she cannot win against Reynaud or the strict traditions of the town. She decides to move elsewhere. Anouk refuses to go, and during a scuffle, an urn containing the ashes of Vianne's mother falls and shatters. After a moment, Vianne goes into her kitchen to see a group of townspeople, who have come to love her and the way she has changed their lives, making chocolate for the festival Vianne had planned for Easter Sunday. She has brought change to the town and decides to stay.
Despite the shifting sentiment in the town, Reynaud remains staunch in his abstinence from pleasures such as chocolate. On the Saturday evening before Easter, he sees Caroline leave the chocolaterie, which devastates him. Convinced now that chocolate will make people stray from their faith, he sneaks into Vianne's house in order to ruin her preparations for the Easter festival. After accidentally tasting a morsel of chocolate that fell on his lips, he finally yields to temptation and devours much of the chocolate in the window display before collapsing into tears and eventually falling asleep. The next day, Vianne awakens the chastened mayor, mutual respect between them is established, and Pere Henri improvises an inspiring sermon. Both the Easter Sunday sermon and the festival are a success, and the storyteller reveals that Reynaud and Caroline start a relationship half a year later. Josephine takes over running Serge's café, which she renames Café Armande. Vianne throws her mother's ashes out the window, which are carried away by the departing north wind.
The unseen narrator concludes the story: Roux returns in the summer to be with Vianne who, despite her constant need for change, resolves to stay, having found a home for herself and her daughter in the village. At the very end, it is revealed that her grown-up daughter Anouk herself is the storyteller.
- Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher
- Victoire Thivisol as Anouk Rocher, Vianne's daughter (voiced by Sally Taylor-Isherwood because Victoire's French accent made her difficult to understand)
- Judi Dench as Armande Voizin, Caroline's mother
- Alfred Molina as Comte de Reynaud, the mayor
- Lena Olin as Josephine Muscat, Serge's abused wife
- Johnny Depp as Roux, a self-described "river-rat" and Vianne's lover
- Hugh O'Conor as Pere Henri, village priest
- Carrie-Anne Moss as Caroline Clairmont, Armande's daughter
- Aurélien Parent-Koenig as Luc Clairmont, Caroline's son
- Peter Stormare as Serge Muscat, café owner
- Hélène Cardona as Françoise "Fuffi" Drou, beauty shop proprietor
- Antonio Gil as Jean-Marc Drou
- Elisabeth Commelin as Yvette Marceau, woman who buys chocolates as an aphrodisiac
- Ron Cook as Alphonse Marceau, Yvette's husband
- Leslie Caron as Madame Audel, village widow whose husband died in World War I
- John Wood as Guillaume Blerot, who carries a long-time yearning for Madame Audel
- Michèle Gleizer as Madame Rivet, village woman who works for the Comte
- Dominique MacAvoy as Madame Pouget, village woman
- Arnaud Adam as George Rocher, Vianne's father
- Christianne Oliveira as Chitza Rocher, Vianne's mother
- Tatyana Yassukovich, the narrator
Filming took place between May and August 2000 in the medieval village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in the region of Burgundy and on the Rue De L'ancienne Poste in Beynac-et-Cazenac in Dordogne. The river scenes were filmed at Fonthill Lake at Fonthill Bishop in Wiltshire and interior scenes at Shepperton Studios, England.
The soundtrack was nominated for the Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media.
- "Minor Swing" (Django Reinhardt/Stéphane Grappelli) – 2:13
- "Main Titles" – 3:07
- "The Story of Grandmere" – 4:08
- "Vianne Sets Up Shop" – 1:57
- "Three Women" – 1:01
- "Vianne Confronts the Comte" – 1:21
- "Other Possibilities" – 1:34
- "Guillaume's Confession" – 1:29
- "Passage of Time" – 2:32
- "Boycott Immorality" – 4:38
- "Party Preparations" – 1:28
- "Chocolate Sauce" – 0:48
- "Fire" – 2:37
- "Vianne Gazes at the River" – 1:06
- "Mayan Bowl Breaks" – 2:14
- "Taste of Chocolate" – 3:08
- "Ashes to the Wind / Roux Returns" – 2:18
- "Caravan" (Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol)– 3:43
Chocolat grossed some US$152,699,946 worldwide, on a production budget of US$25 million.
The film received positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 62% of 117 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.99/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Chocolat is a charmingly light-hearted fable with a lovely performance by Binoche". On Metacritic, which uses a normalized rating system, the film holds a 64/100 rating, based on 31 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Chicago Tribune critic Michael Wilmington called Chocolat "a delightful confection, a cream-filled (and slightly nutty) bon-bon of a [...] tantalizing, delectable and randy movie of melting eroticism and toothsome humor." He felt that the film "is a feast of fine actors – and every one of them is a joy to watch." Similarly, Peter Travers from Rolling Stone declared the project "a sinfully scrumptious bonbon [...] Chocolat may be slight, but don’t discount Hallstrom’s artful finesse [...] Except for some indigestible whimsy Chocolat is yummy." Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film three out of four stars. He found the film was "charming and whimsical, and Binoche reigns as a serene and wise goddess." New York Post's Lou Lumenick called Chocolat "the soothing cinematic equivalent of a warm cup of decadently rich cocoa," led by "melt-in-your-mouth performances" from Binoche, Molina and Dench.
In his review for Variety, Lael Loewenstein found that "Hallstrom couldn’t have asked for a better cast to embody those themes; likewise, his production team has done an exquisite job of giving life to Robert Nelson Jacobs’ taut script. Chocolat [...] is a richly textured comic fable that blends Old World wisdom with a winking, timely commentary on the assumed moral superiority of the political right." Mick LaSalle of the Los Angeles Times remarked that the film was "as delectable as its title, but for all its sensuality it is ultimately concerned with the spirit." He noted that Chocolat "is a work of artistry and craftsmanship at the highest level, sophisticated in its conception and execution, yet possessed of wide appeal." The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell found the film "extraordinarily well cast" and wrote: "This crowd-pleaser is the feature-film version of milk chocolate: an art house movie for people who don't like art house movies."
Lisa Schwarzbaum, writing for Entertainment Weekly, graded the film with a 'B–' rating, summarizing it "as agreeably sweet as advertised, with a particularly yummy performance by Juliette Binoche," while Jay Carr from The Boston Globe found that the film "may not be deep, but it certainly is lip-smacking." Mike Clark of USA Today was more cutting in his review, saying that the film does "never [serve] enough goodies to keep the two-hour running time from seeming like three." In a further negative review, Dennis Lim from The Village Voice criticized the film for its "condescending, self-congratulatory attack on provincial sanctimony." He called Chocolat an "airy, pseudo-folkloric gibberish at best."
The film was nominated for many awards, including five Academy Awards, one of which was Best Picture. Among significant awards won for work on this picture were the Art Directors Guild award 2001 for Excellence in Production Design, the Bogey Award given by the German journal Blickpunkt: Film, based on audience numbers, the Audience Award 2001 of the European Film Awards, for Juliette Binoche, and the Screen Actors Guild award 2001, to Judi Dench for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. The film also attracted numerous BAFTA nominations, and Rachel Portman's score was nominated for a Grammy Award.
- (2000) filming locations, Movieloci.com, accessed 10 July 2013
- "Chocolat: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture (2001 Film): Rachel Portman: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-02-10.
- "Chocolat (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- "Chocolat (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Metacritic
- Wilmington, Michael (December 22, 2000). "Chocolao: A Romance-Comedy-Fairytale That's Sinfully Sweet". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Travers, Peter (December 22, 2000). "Chocolat". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Ebert, Roger (December 22, 2000). "Chocolat". Chicago Sun-Times. RogertEbert.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Lumenick, Lou (December 15, 2000). "Sweet & Just Dessert". New York Post. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Loewenstein, Lael (December 7, 2000). "Chocolat". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- LaSalle, Mick (December 22, 2000). "'Chocolat' a Rare Treat That Nourishes the Soul". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Mitchell, Elvis (December 15, 2000). "FILM REVIEW; Candy Power Comes to Town". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (December 15, 2000). "Chocolat (2000)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- Lim, Dennis (December 12, 2000). "The Old Slack Magic". The Village Voice. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
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