'Chocolat' - Movie Review

I didn't see this 2000 movie until 2017, despite (or perhaps because of) its reputation. Learning it was directed by Hallström didn't help: he directs well-known and extremely emotionally manipulative movies ("The Cider House Rules," "The Hundred-Foot Journey," many others). The summary review of "A Dog's Purpose" on Rotten Tomatoes pretty much covers the problems of his movies: "... offers an awkward blend of sugary sentiment and canine suffering that tugs at animal-loving audiences' heartstrings with shameless abandon." But I continue to occasionally watch his stuff because he also once directed what I consider to be one of the best movies ever made, "The Shipping News."

"Chocolat" opens with the arrival of a woman and her daughter dressed in vivid red coats in a small French town in 1959. The woman (Vianne, played by Juliette Binoche) rents a shop with an apartment over it, and opens a chocolate shop - right in the middle of Lent, much to the disgust of the puritanical mayor Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Vianne has a magical ability to guess people's favourite chocolates, and her chocolates ... free people. They are so delicious that people are inspired to be better, to do the right thing, etc. etc. Of course Vianne has her own demons - mostly in the form of her history of moving from place to place, something she inherited from her migrant mother.

The movie is set in France and filmed in France, starring a French actress, but all dialogue is in English.

The acting is good, but it's all a painfully heavy-handed magic-realist parable with a tediously obvious outcome. If you like having your heart-strings tugged (and don't mind having a clear view of the man behind the curtain doing the yanking), Hallström is your man. But I think I've had enough.