I have a knack for guessing people's favorites.
Once upon a time, a European pharmacist/explorer fell in love with and married a South American woman who was destined from birth to move as the wind blows, sharing her "ancient cacao remedies" with unhappy people. He brought her to Europe, but she didn't stay with him, departing with her daughter to move from place to place with the "clever North wind."
Her daughter Vianne (Juliette Binoche) is the focus of this 2000 film, adapted from a novel by Joanne Harris. She and her daughter Anouk (who hopes to settle down someday) live this same lifestyle, and at the beginning of the film move into a stuffy French village run by the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina
), a man who has stricter moral standards than the local priest and holds everyone
Using the secret recipes of her mother's people, Vianne opens a chocolaterie during Lent, earning the Comte's disapproval. Although at first the townspeople give her a chilly reception, they slowly warm up to her as they are tempted by her fabulous concoctions. She convinces abused wife Josephine Muscat (Lena Olin
) to leave her drunk husband Serge (Peter Stormare
) and come work with her at the chocolaterie. She reunites young Luc Clairmont with his grandmother Armande (Judi Dench
), a passionate and sarcastic woman deemed a bad influence by Luc's conservative mother, Caroline. Hidden passions left buried for years are brought to the surface with the help of the chocolate.
The Comte fears that Vianne is a threat to his control on the town and behaves accordingly, warning all the townspeople of the dangerous and evil nature of her chocolate. He spreads rumors about her atheism and liberal lifestyle, and even uses the local priest as a mouthpiece for his own ideas.
Conflict is further stirred up by the arrival of a group of gypsies, led by the impetuous and handsome Roux (Johnny Depp
). Vianne, recognizing fellow outcasts, is the only shop owner in the town not to "boycott immorality" and refuse them service. She and Armande even contrive to unite them with the more liberal members of the town during Armande's 70th birthday celebration.
Although she changes everyone else's lives in the process, Vianne herself is changed by the people she meets in the town, specifically Roux - with whom she develops a romantic relationship - Josephine, and Armande. Whether or not Vianne can overcome her wanderlust is as big a question as whether severity or joy will finally win out over the town.
Primarily remembered today as having been nominated for several Academy Awards
, including Best Picture, in what commentators then and now regard as the most egregious
example of Miramax Films
' notorious Oscar campaigns; this resulted in a huge backlash that has dogged the film ever since
. Based on a novel by Joanne Harris which apparently nobody reads
, with all the Nightmare Fuel
Tropes in the Original Novel and sequels:
- Adult Fear: For Vianne, the fact that Anouk is growing up and into a different person from the innocent little girl that she used to be. This fear comes to life in ''The Girl With No Shadow"
- Her daughter Rosette has ''cri du chat',' a real syndrome that is incurable and only has therapies.
- In The Girl With No Shadow a priest and a social worker tracked her down and tried to take Rosette and Anouk away.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Subverted; Rosette has cri du chat or "cry of the cat". Vianne reveals this in a flashback. Played straight with Thierry's son.
- Bad Samaritan: Zozie in The Girl With No Shadow.
- Bittersweet Ending: In Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow
- Chocolat: Josephine escapes her husband's influence, the Easter Festival goes as planned and Reynaud is caught in the act of trying to sabotage the gift boxes, but Armande is dead and Lansquenet no longer needs Vianne.
- The Girl With No Shadow: Vianne and Anouk succeed in driving Zozie off and Vianne reconciles with her real mother and Roux at the price of losing Thierry and the chocolaterie in Montmarte, and Zozie remains alone.
- Black Mail: Why Reynaud leaves Armande Voizin alone; she remembers that he tossed a Molotov cocktail that killed a gypsy couple in their boat and could easily spill the beans and ruin his reputation.
- Children Are Cruel: Anouk becomes subject to teen classmates bullying her in The Girl With No Shadow for being different and for having a "retarded sister".
- Clear My Name: Part of the plot in Peaches for Father Francis. Reynaud has been accused of arson, and though he has been guilty of it in the past, he claims that it's not him this time. Given he meets Vianne ten years after the events of Chocolat, time has allowed them to forgive each other and work together to find the real culprit.
- Cool Old Lady: Armande Voizin in Chocolat. Framboise in The Girl With No Shadow
- Deadly Euphemism: "Accidents" used in reference to children killing adults or using magic to cause mischief. Reynaud committed an "accident" in Chocolat, and Anouk does as well in The Girl With Now Shadow. Rosette's little magical escapades are less lethal but nevertheless called accidents.
- Deal with the Devil: Vianne ponders on this after reflecting on a life with no magic, even referring to a fairy tale where a boy sold his shadow to a strange man later revealed to be the devil.
- Domestic Abuse: Josephine Muscat suffers this from Paul-Marie.
- Vianne later suffers emotional abuse at Thierry's hands, which she calls him out for, mainly in how he tries to control her life as well as her daughter's lives.
- Evil Gloating: Zozie enjoys doing this.
- From Bad to Worse: In between Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow the wind pulled on Vianne and Anouk so hard that she abandoned magic completely, and the "Kindly Ones" — a social worker and a priest— followed her after she gave birth to a baby with cri du chat. No wonder Vianne becomes so disillusioned.
- Gold Digger: Inverted; Vianne has no interest in marrying her landlord Thierry, but he controls her rent and could keep her family safe. He's the one putting pressure on her, and has financial power.
- Grand Theft Me: A more mundane sort in The Girl With No Shadow. Zozie steals identities and lives for money, sometimes For the Evulz, and she plans to take Vianne's life. At least, that's what she tells Vianne; she really wants Anouk, to become a mother and mentor to her.
- Hypocrite: Reynaud. He preaches about wanting to save the town's citizens from eternal damnation, but turns a blind eye when Muscat beats his wife.
- Vianne later becomes one when cutting magic from the girls' lives. Anouk knows this and becomes resentful.
- Idiot Ball: A few instances:
- In Chocolat Josephine goes alone to her old house to get her clothes and books before her ex-husband throws them out. It was Sunday, during church, but Paul-Marie stayed at home . . .
- In The Girl With No Shadow Jean-Loup gives Anouk photographic proof that Zozie is an identity thief and not what she seems to be. Anouk in response tears the photographs up because she won't hear anything bad about Zozie. Cue Face Palm from the audience.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Thierry in The Girl With No Shadow , to almost no one's surprise.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: An odd case where the narrator Vianne is one. She's always cheerful, encouraging her customers to think differently with chocolates and pagan practices, and manages to solve others' problems. By the time The Girl With No Shadow takes place, however, reality has ensued and she has grown out of it.
- Zozie is a Deconstruction of one; although her presence improves Vianne's life, she has ulterior motives.
- Pet the Dog: How Zozie worms her way into Vianne's life in The Girl With No Shadow. She makes Vianne a cup of Mexican hot chocolate after Rosette has an episode in the shop, and slowly helps Vianne revert to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that she used to be. The novel becomes a gradual Deconstruction of this trope, showing that a person who does good things isn't necessary good.
- Self-Made Orphan: Zozie is one after her mother wanted to take her to a doctor.
- The Last Dance: Armande Voizin's birthday. A diabetic who will go blind, she decides to stop taking her medicine and go all out in an extravagant feast, complete with plenty of wine.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Fortunately for Vianne, most of her customers have favorites. Her own are mendiants, biscuit-shaped chocolates that are sprinkled with raisins. Guillame in Chocolat likes florentines and often shares them with his dog Charley.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Reynaud in Chocolat. Joanne Harris assures us that he has mellowed since in time for Peaches for Father Francis.
Tropes in the Film: