Chocolat: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Not many movies these days start out with the phrase “Once upon a time…”. Well, not many that aren’t animated, that is. But Chocolat is more of a tale than a movie. Let me rephrase that…Chocolat is told like a tale, but it’s something that could happen. Get me? Originally I found this movie to be somewhat dull, but then again, I had not seen it and I was just going on word of mouth. I knew that it had been nominated for Best Picture, but then again Disney seems to have at least one “art film” nominated for Best Picture every year, so my natural tendency was to dislike it. That all changed about 10 minutes into the movie, however. Another thing I heard about the movie was that it was hard to describe, and that the closest thing to it was “Plesantville”. Well, being a fan of that movie, I was trying to think about how a movie about chocolate was in some way, shape or form connected with the movie “Plesantville”. Sure enough, after viewing the movie (Chocolat), I would have to agree. And get ready for an ensemble cast as well. Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche may grace the cover, but veteran character actor Alfred Molina is at his best as the utterly refined Comte de Reynaud. So sit back, relax and have a bite of Chocolat…

As the story opens, we see two women looking more like Little Red Riding Hood than characters in a movie, but as the mother/daughter arrive in a little French villiage, we see and learn why they do what they do and why they wear what they wear. Drifting from town to town, Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and Anouk (Victoire Thivisoi) rent out a store from it’s cantankerous owner, Armande (Judi Dench). In what seems to be a routine for them, they whip the place into shape in no time, all the while keeping the townspeople in the dark about what it is that they’re doing there. You see, it’s the season of Lent, and many things that people would likewise do, are forbidden. As we quickly find out, the store’s soul purpose is to sell chocolate. But unlike a Hershey bar, this chocolate seems to be geared towards the individual via a little game. With the flick of a wrist, a dish is spun and the customer asked to voice what he/she sees. Based on that gut response, Vianne chooses a chocolate for them. Now this is all fine and good, but what would the story be without some resistance. This is where the similarity to “Plesantville” is drawn. This small town is very religious. Under the constant guise of the Comte, they are almost like slaves. It’s a “voluntary” reaction of course, but the town prides itself on it’s tradition and that tradition is church, work and family (and not necessarily in that order). Life isn’t perfect for all the town’s residents, though…

As we see the store succeed, we also start to see a few characters come out of the woodwork. A shoplifting, abused wife Josephine Muscat (Lena Olin) is described as “someone who dances to her own tune”, but we see that she is looking for any way out of her marriage. Caroline Clairmont (Carrie-Anne Moss) will not let her own mother see her son, due to a falling-out and the list goes on and on. What Vianne’s store does is not only offer chocolate that changes things, it starts to change the town as well. And the one thing that the town doesn’t want is change. The rest of the cast includes Johnny Depp in another great, yet small, role. Don’t be fooled by the marketing machine of Miramax, Chocolat is a great movie and one that I was quite impressed by (and I was all ready to hate this flic…trust me). Odds are that if I can be convinced, so can you. Care for some Chocolat?

Video: How does it look?

It nearly goes without saying these days that most any movie, especially one that comes from Disney, will look great on DVD. And this goes nearly double for a movie that is fresh from the theaters…Well, I was not as taken by the 1.85:1 anamorphic image as I thought I would be. The entire palette is soft and muted, and that’s fine. Only reds are used as the “bright” color. The rest of the palette is very muted to go with the attitude of the townspeople (muted). There is a bit of edge enhancement as well, which did surprise me some, but on the whole I have to say that Chocolat looks good, it’s just not what we’ve come to expect for day and date transfers. The lack of compression artifacts is always a good thing as were the black levels…all on target. A good-looking transfer, but I feel it has room for improvement.

Audio: How does it sound?

Not exactly a movie for your audio, Chocolat does contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer and for the most part it sounds like a surround mix. The majority of the movie is very dialogue-driven, and there is a clarity that is to be admired here, as we can sort out all of the fake French accents! Still, there are a few action scenes and some stuff even blows up, which is always cool. The soundtrack serves it’s purpose and I wouldn’t worry too much about how this sounds. Just turn it up and wait for the explosion.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Billed as one of Disney’s “Collector’s Series” DVD’s, this contains a few extras, but nothing that I would say merits the high price tag. The main feature is a feature-length commentary by Director Lasse Hallstrom, David Brown and a few others. Though not the most talkative or informative commentary, it covers the bases, though you might need to turn your center channel up to hear all the words. The Making of Chocolat clocks in just under 30 minutes that is something which we’ve all seen before. We see some interviews and it shows the making of the movie (showing sets, etc…). Some other featurettes are The costumes of Chocolat which concentrates on the wardrobe (duh) and is interesting, yet short. Anther production design featurette shows how they changed the set to look more like a French villaige. Great. There are seven deleted scenes, though, that do offer a bit more into the film. I feel all should have been included in the movie, but the director felt differently. Some trailers of other movies (though this one was conspicuously absent) are included. I really liked Chocolat, though the extras weren’t as involved as I think they could have been. If you like the movie, then you’ll be happy, otherwise I’d give it a rental.

Disc Scores