Oscar Vault Monday – Chocolat, 2000 (dir. Lasse Hallström)

I really love this movie. When I first saw it in theaters I was with my mother and afterwards all we wanted to do was eat good chocolate. In recent year, I’ve noticed a tendency in film bloggers to complain about this movie for being nominated for Best Picture. They use it as a way of showing that a “mediocre” film can get nominated for the top prize with a great campaign and/or if it’s backed by the Weinsteins. I think this is a completely unfair and narrow view of the film. I would in no way call this a “mediocre” film, for one. Also, it’s a film that was both critically acclaimed and loved by audiences. Isn’t that the kind of film we always wish the Academy would nominate? You can’t complain about the Academy being too pretentious with one breath and then bash this perfectly lovely film with another. This film was nominated for five Academy Awards – Best Actress Juliette Binoche, Best Supporting Actress Judi Dench, Best Score, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture; it didn’t win a single award. It was up against Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic and winner Gladiator. 2000 was actually one of my favorite years for Best Picture nominees (behind 1997, which is maybe my favorite year) as I love every single film that was nominated for the top prize.

This is one of my favorite films to watch when I need a pick-me-up. I find the cast and characters and chocolate all to be delightfully fun. I’m sure I’ve watched it at least 20 times and I still find myself being sucked into it and finding something new to love. Roger Ebert has said, “Every great film should seem new every time you see it,” and that’s how I feel about this film. It may seem light and fluffy on the outside, but it has so many layers to it and I come away each time I see it with something new.

Juliette Binoche is one my favorite actresses working today. She has this amazingly luminous screen presence. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1996 for her role in The English Patient (which is my favorite film of all time). She was nominated for her role in this film, only this time in the Best Actress category. She lost to Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich and I can’t say I’d have it any other way. Roberts’ performance was much more showy, but it was still great and she stole that entire movie. This film however, is more of an ensemble piece and Binoche’s role is more subtle. I also must say that Binoche’s character Vianne is one of my all-time style inspirations. I love all the costumes she wears in this film.

Dam Judi Dench was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, a category she won two years earlier for her turn as Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love, ultimately losing to Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock (a film I’ve still yet to see). I really feel Dame Judi Dench can do no wrong. She is so wonderful in this film – a mixture of crotchety old woman, vibrant old soul and woeful mother. Her chemistry with each and every one of her co-stars is palpable and her face in every single scene is so wonderfully expressive.

I think Comte de Reynaud is hands down Alfred Molina’s best performance and how he did not get an Oscar nomination for this film is just beyond me. He’s so crazy and determined and melancholy and just so many other emotions all packed into one powerhouse performance. I know I said earlier that this film is really a giant ensemble piece, but his performance really outshines all the others.

His turn as Roux in this film may not be Johnny Depp’s best performance, but it is definitely one of his sexiest performances. I’m not sure what I wanted more when I left the theater, some chocolate or Johnny Depp.

I loved Lena Olin in this film. If it had been me voting, I think I would have nominated her performance in the Supporting Actress category over Dench. She hits every note of her performance as the abused wife Josephine Muscat, whom Vianne takes in and nurtures. I think she could have made the role very melodramatic, but instead imbues the character with this inner warmth and strength. As the film progress, Olin’s character begins to glow from inside and out.

I really enjoyed Carrie-Anne Moss’ performance in this film because it was so different from her role in The Matrix. Instead of being this hard-as-nails, no-nonsense warrior, she was this soft, slightly insecure mother, daughter and friend.

I have to mention Leslie Carron, who had been a huge star in her day – she was nominated for Best Actress in both 1954 and 1964, as well as playing the titular role in 1958’s Best Picture winner Gigi (having recently seen that film, she is the only good thing about it). She’s still as luminous as ever in this film.

Peter Stormare is one of my favorite character actors. He’s in EVERYTHING. He’s always wonderful in everything he does. He adds both comedy and gravity to this film as abusive cafe owner and husband Serge Muscat. It’s having great character actors like this, in small but important roles, that makes this film such a terrific ensemble piece.

Lastly, I have to give a shout-out to the chocolate. Just look at it! I just want to eat it. Whoever was in charge of creating the chocolate for this film did an amazing job and cinematographer Roger Pratt did a stellar job photographing it. The chocolate in this film definitely goes on my list of top supporting inanimate objects in cinema of all time.

If you’re interested in buying the film, you can do so here.


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on August 9, 2010, in Oscar Vault Monday and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Yum. This was the first movie I saw where I paid attention to Johnny Depp. He wasn’t on my radar for some reason. It was intriguing. While watching this movie sometimes I fancy I can smell the chocolate. But under all the sweetness is a serious subject of accepting those who are different from us. And like Harvey who is apparently real, Pantouffle the child’s “imaginary” kangaroo friend is also real as we find out at the end of the movie.

    Other performances that aren’t mentioned above that I love are the middle aged couple whose sex life is reignited by a special chocolate. Also some of the older people too. Lovely film. It also made me determined never to eat cheapo cheap chocolate ever again. Only the best.

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