if the movie chocolat really were chocolate, it would be the faux variety, waxy and syrupy-sweet, made in New Jersey but trussed up in hoity-toity packaging and stamped with a vaguely exotic name.It's a foreign film for people who don't like anything too foreign. Though the story is set in a 1950s French village, the international cast speaks British with a mangled French accent, which makes actress Juliette Binoche sound perplexed.
She plays a sultry vagabond who drags her daughter (Ponette's Victoire Thivosol) from town to town peddling chocolates and awakening desires.
When she opens her chocolaterie in the stodgy town of Lansquenet during Lent, she sets in motion a tired dispute between the church-going self-deniers led by Alfred Molina as the mayor and Carrie-Anne Moss as his prim assistant, and Binoche's heathen band of self-pleasurers.
Since Hollywood has always regarded restraint as a disease in need of a cure, you can guess which side wins.
In the absence of a compelling story, one is left to ponder the performances and plot holes. Dame Judi Dench plays Binoche's prickly landlady, and while she can't help but be a formidable screen presence, this really is a part she could play while folding laundry.
Johnny Depp shows up a full hour into the film as an Irish river rat. He ends up being Binoche's love interest, which is a bummer since what this film could desperately use is more Depp.
Binoche, as always, floats gracefully above the silliness, though I couldn't help thinking that a woman addicted to chocolate should be more plump and pimpled. I'm sure people entranced by foreign fluff won't be bothered by such niggling inconsistencies.