Chocolat is a 2000 British-American romantic comedy-drama film based on a novel by the same name by Joanne Harris, and was directed by Lasse Hallström.
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), and her own 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 to them.
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 taken out.
Not to be confused with the 2016 French film Chocolat, which is about one of the earliest successful black entertainers in France. Also not to be confused with Chocolate, a Thai film about an autistic girl who goes after her ailing mother's debtors to pay for her chemotherapy.
Tropes in the Original Novel and sequels:
- Adult Fear:
- Your local priest may be a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes in Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work and will turn a blind eye to Domestic Abuse, so long as the Bible is followed to the letter.
- 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". Anouk becomes increasingly disappointed that her mother wants a conventional life without magic and denies it, which allows Zozie to get close to both of them.
- For Caroline Clairmont, her estranged mother is a diabetic who doesn't take care of herself and refuses to let others boss her around. Caro is a Jerkass but when her mother has a fit and nearly dies from not taking insulin, Caro's Oh, Crap! and calling for her mother makes her quite empathetic. There's also the fact that she attends her mother's party and feels guilty on learning her mother deliberately planned to die.
- Vianne's mother Jeanne isn't actually her mother; Jeanne stole "Sylviane Caillou" from another woman, Michele, who lived in the apartment across. As an adult, Vianne found articles that Jeanne kept of the incident, and Michele is close to Tears of Joy when she and Vianne reconcile.
- Her daughter Rosette has cri du chat, a real syndrome that is incurable.
- 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.
- Analogy Backfire: Subverted. When Vianne finds out that Armande is going blind in a year, and that Armande decides that she's going to die in the comfort of her home, Vianne starts to cry. Armande points out that Vianne told Guillaume that Charley would have preferred dignity as opposed to succumbing to pain, but Vianne retorts that Armande isn't a dog. Armande agrees; she isn't because, unlike Charley, she has a choice.
- Armor-Piercing Question: This is what ends up stopping Zozie; Anouk while struggling with her asks, "What was in the black pinata?" in Dia de Los Muertos.
- Bad Samaritan: Zozie in The Girl With No Shadow.
- Being Good Sucks: After his HeelFace Turn, Reynaud finds that his parishioners don't appreciate that he is stricter on them about tolerance. This becomes pronounced when he chides a local boy for writing racist slurs on a wall in Les Merauds, and the boy's father protests that Reynaud grabbed his ear and made him scrub off the words.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Anouk is a sweet little girl who grows into a well-meaning if bitter teenager who sees more about the world than even her mother does. She's also infected her bullies with ringworm thanks to a spell Zozie taught her, and in the past, she killed a social worker and a priest that would have taken her and Rosette away from her mother.
- 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 Monsieur le Cure. 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.
- Didn't Think This Through: Anouk didn't consider the moral consequences of casting a spell to get rid of the Kindly Ones, a social worker and priest that tried to take her and Rosette away while Vianne was out of the flat. The end results give her nightmares.
- 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.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!:
- Roux hates people offering him handouts or unnecessary jobs for this reason. He lightens up a bit after Armande nearly dies and Vianne hires him for woodwork in the house.
- This is ultimately what defeats Zozie; she can't stand that Anouk pities her for loving nothing and lacking a heart.
- Evil Gloating: Zozie enjoys doing this.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Vianne deciding to open up a specialty chocolate shop on the first day of Lent, right across from the village church, puts her instantly at odds with Francis, who sees it as an affront against restraint.
- Food Porn: The feast at Armande's birthday party: soupe de tomates à la Gasconne served with anchovy tart, plateau de fruits de mer for the main course which includes a huge lobster, with elderflower sorbet, herb salad and foie gras on toast as palate cleansers, and a cake fondue for dessert with homemade ice cream.
- Fluffy the Terrible: The "Kindly Ones" as Vianne names them. They are a social worker and a priest who tried to take Anouk and Rosette away from her, all because she would not baptize Rosette.
- 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. When he learns that Roux is Rosette's father, and that "Yanne" is Vianne Rocher, and that she lied to him about everything, he gives her notice to close her shop and move out of the building.
- 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.
- HeelFace Turn: After the events of Chocolat, Reynaud goes from being a Hypocrite prejudiced priest to a Reasonable Authority Figure when North African Muslims move into Les Merauds. What's more, the narration emphasizes that he does this despite the village not liking that he is more tolerant.
- 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. Armande Voizin calls him out on this. In Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, he gets better about this but has his moments.
- 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.
- Implausible Deniability: Vianne never cries. She would like you to know that.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- The main reason why Caroline Clairmont wants her mother in a nursing home is that Armande is getting old and unable to care for herself; she has no idea that Armande is prepared to Face Death with Dignity, since Armande has hid that from everyone, and Caro feels responsible despite their falling out.
- The only legitimate point that Thierry makes is that Vianne lied to him about everything: from her name to her marital status, and that she never came clean to him about anything. Vianne wasn't interested in a relationship with him apart from losing her chocolate shop, but he has a legitimate reason, to call her out.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Thierry in The Girl With No Shadow, to almost no one's surprise.
- Karma Houdini: As revealed in Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, Francis Reynaud despite breaking into Vianne's shop with the intent of destroying her Easter gift boxes kept his position as the village priest. What starts the story is that he only gets fired after being framed for arson.
- 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.
- Molotov Cocktail: As a boy Reynaud used one to torch a gypsy ship, and killed a sleeping couple inside.
- Never Mess with Granny: Armande Voizin. She saves Josephine from her husband Paul-Marie with Guillaume's help and indirectly blackmails Reynaud, knowing that he murdered two gypsies by setting their boat on fire with a Molotov Cocktail.
- Not So Different: When a drunken Muscat confesses to Reynaud that he "helped" with the gypsies after attacking Josephine and burning down Roux's boat, Armande chuckles and says that Reynaud and Muscat are two of a kind, since Reynaud as a child did the same thing.
- More generally, Vianne and each of her antagonists: she and Reynaud are both spiritual figures who attempt to influence the lives of those around them for the better; she and Zozie are both witches on the run, using magic and glamour to change themselves and get by; she and Ines Bencharki are both single women with children who have faced the shame and condemnation of society and it turns out Ines also possesses magical abilities. The similarities between Vianne and Reynaud become even more pronounced during Peaches for Monsieur le Cure when he has become more sensitive and understanding and less uptight.
- 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.
- Reality Ensues: While Josephine is grateful that Vianne took her in after Josephine left her husband, she feels awkward on seeing that Vianne has returned, knowing that they had both loved Roux. And more so, that Roux had chosen Vianne
- Revenge: Zozie runs on this, and has since she was a small child. She starts training Anouk in the fine art of it.
- Rule of Three: Vianne gives Father Francis some oyster-shaped pralines, and later on invites him for a free cup of chocolate. He doesn't give in until he breaks into her shop, and starts gorging on the chocolates in the display window.
- Self-Made Orphan: Zozie is one after her mother wanted to take her to a doctor, following her poisoning a bunch of people at a dance.
- Skewed Priorities: Armande Voizin calls out Father Reynaud for caring more about "the sanctity of marriage" when Josephine leaves Paul-Marie rather than the fact that Paul has been beating up his wife on a regular basis and close to the climax nearly murders her.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Subverted; they do, only they follow the religious side of the law. A social worker and a priest tracked down Vianne and tried to take away Rosette and Anouk when Vianne was out of their living space; only Anouk killing them with a spell caused them to go away.
- Teens Are Monsters: Teenage girls are at least to Anouk; she gets along better with teen boys. In Zozie's teenage years, a spat of bullying led to her in retaliation poisoning a number of people at a school dance.
- 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.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Reynaud between Chocolat and Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, to the point where he and Vianne become Not So Different.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Fortunately for Vianne, most of her customers have favorites. Her own are mendiants, biscuit-shaped chocolates that are sprinkled with raisins. Guillaume in Chocolat likes florentines and often shares them with his dog, Charley.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Reynaud in Chocolat, up until the end. Afterwards, ten years later, he is framed for arson in Peaches for Monsieur le Cure.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Reynaud in Chocolat. Joanne Harris assures us that he has mellowed since in time for Peaches for Monsieur le Cure.
Tropes in the Film:
- Adaptational Heroism:
- Francis Reynaud in the film. He greets Anouk and Vianne warmly before learning that neither is religious and that Vianne had Anouk out of wedlock, and is unaware of Muscat abusing his wife. The minute Vianne shows him Josephine's bruise, he gets angry at Muscat and forces him into confessional and to clean up his image. He also exiles Muscat for burning down Roux's boat and nearly killing the people on board.
- Caroline Clairmont in the books is a vapid Alpha Bitch that micromanages her son, ostracizes Josephine, and attempts to bully her mother into going into a nursing home. In the movie, she's more reasonable in reminding Luc that he's giving up chocolate for Lent and genuinely worries about her mother's condition.
- Roux is much less abrasive here than he is in the book, though he remains a Deadpan Snarker. It helps that he has necklaces to sell rather than having to rely on others hiring him for labor and that the gypsies face less prejudice from the villagers. In addition, he doesn't fall for Vianne and Josephine at the same time.
- Broken Bird: Josephine, who is escaping an abusive marriage.
- Chocolate of Romance: It provides the page image. The movie can be considered to be almost centered around this trope. Many a man buys chocolates from Vianne's shop for their loved ones or they are inspired to court women they have a crush on.Vianne Rocher: And these are for your husband. Unrefined cacao nips from Guatemala, to awaken the passions.
Yvette Marceau: Psshh. You've obviously never met my husband.
Vianne Rocher: Well, you've obviously never tried these.
- Cool Old Lady: Armande is an awesome grandmother (buying her grandson a book of Rimbaud's poetry) and friend, celebrating the finer things of life up until the end.
- Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover would have you think that Roux is a major character alongside Vianne but he doesn't show up until a good hour into the film, and even then his scenes are fairly limited as the love interest and nothing more.
- Crisis of Faith: Comte de Reynaud becomes a better person when he relaxes the more fanatical elements of his faith.
- DecemberDecember Romance: Guillaume Blerot and the widow Audel. The young priest is at first shocked that Guillaume's for her... at her age and at his age!
- Disappeared Dad: Anouk's father is only mentioned in the context of the scandal of Vianne being a single woman with a daughter in the '50s (they don't know who he is-apparently Vianne was rather promiscuous).
- Disneyfication: The anti-religious theme of the movie adaptation was softened by replacing the bitter churchman of the book with a town representative. Also, the town itself was made to look drab and ugly in the opening acts, when the very first scene in the book describes the heroine and her daughter watching a bright parade through the streets of the same town. The novel ended with a brief, drunken hookup between the heroine and a male supporting character, leaving her pregnant as she left the village to continue drifting. In the movie, the relationship between her and the man is developed into a full romantic subplot, he returns at the end, and the heroine decides she doesn't need to leave the village, breaking the cycle. Also Roux returns with a new boat by the end of the film, while in the book it takes him several years to earn the money.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Exact words used by Armande when Vianne learns she's diabetic and going blind.
- Everyone Has Standards: When the rather unsympathetic and unpleasant Comte finds out that Serge has been beating his wife, he immediately tosses him into confession and forces him to reform. Then when he learns Serge started the fire at the dock in a bid to kill his wife, Vianne, and the Gypsies living there, the Comte is shocked, and he angrily orders Serge to leave the town, telling him that he is forever banished from the village.
- Flyaway Shot: The movie ends with a zoom-out from the statue to an areal shot of the whole village.
- Food Porn: Chocolate porn, lots and lots of chocolate porn. Especially the slow-motion eating sequences.
- Forbidden Fruit: The villagers are tempted to break their Lenten fast with the decadent chocolate.
- The Fundamentalist: The Comte de Reynaud is very strict about religion and fanatical about his faith and he wants everybody to behave according to his standards.
- Good Is Boring: The heroine, Vianne, does not conform to the village's definition of "good".
- Go and Sin No More: Serge tries to abuse this trope, pandering to Reynaud's beliefs to guilt him into keeping quiet about Serge's abuse (repeatedly, even as Serge only gets more violent and sadistic). Eventually, Reynaud replies to Serge's whining, 'Are you going to tell the police what you've done? No? Then I will assume you're not really contrite'.
- Hollywood Atheist: Vianne to the villagers (given that she practices various traditional magics and is going to hold a fertility celebration on Easter, while Vianne is labeled an atheist she probably practices pagan-in a broad sense of the word-beliefs, though she would never label herself as such). To them, any person who just isn't a Catholic seems to qualify. Averted though as she never actually displays any of the traits (nor expresses what her beliefs are, besides them being clearly at odds with theirs).Boy 1: I hear she's an atheist.Boy 2: What's that?Boy 1: ...I don't know.
- Imaginary Friend: Anouk's kangaroo, Pantoufle, who seems a little less imaginary at the end was a way for her to cope with moving from place to place so much. He leaves when she doesn't need him anymore.
- Lighter and Fluffier: The writer of the original novel explicitly compares it to "milk chocolate", while the source material is darker and bitterer with more of an edge.
- Magic Realism: Vianne's chocolate and her ability to guess people's favorites, or Anouk's kangaroo.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Vianne makes the whole village way more relaxed and shows them how to enjoy their life. She especially helps Josephine and Armande.
- Mr. Fanservice: This film propelled Johnny Depp straight back into the sex-symbol territory he had fought so hard to get out of with his earlier films. He's held this title ever since, albeit in an extremely non-traditional way.
- The Mourning After: The woman Guillaume is attracted to a woman who lost her husband in the war (a German grenade). No, not that war that was considered recent in the 50s — he was killed on January 12, 1917. His poor wife has been in mourning for 22 years. She does begin dating Guillaume by the end.
- Narrator All Along: We only discover at the end of the film that the narrator is Anouk.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most characters manage to sound as if they at least knew what a French accent sounded like (it helped that Juliette Binoche is actually French, and so was about half the cast). Johnny Depp, however, decided his character was Irish. This is somewhat justified by his lifestyle as a gypsy. Judi Dench, notably, keeps her natural accent.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: There's at least one whole scene where Alfred Molina completely drops his otherwise fairly convincing French accent and reverts back to his native London accent.
- Oscar Bait: It didn't win any Oscars, but did get five nominations including Best Picture. That it got those five nominations at all, over what many viewed as superior films, became a major point of contention. There's no denying, though, that Judi Dench can do no wrong and her nomination, at least, was well-deserved.
- Preacher Man: Père Henri, a lovable young preacher who not only pays close attention to his flock's spiritual needs, but the quality of their lives. He's just a bit of an Extreme Doormat when it comes to the seemingly inhumanly devout Comte de Reynaud. Upon seeing him passed out in the chocolaterie's window, he realizes that the man has as much need of guidance as the rest, and starts treating him as another supplicant. Ultimately, he's the one who drops the film's anvil: faith isn't just supposed to condemn sins, it's supposed to encourage virtues - above all, compassion and tolerance.
- Pygmalion Snapback: The Comte's efforts to change Josephine's husband don't work out.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Just as Vianne and Roux start kissing, it cuts to the outside of the boat and moaning is heard.
- Sleeping Dummy: Luc pads his bed (with crumpled drawing paper) so he can sneak out to his grandmother's birthday party.
- Supreme Chef: Vianne's creations are mouth-watering enough to win over an entire town of strict Catholics during Lent.
- The Tall Dark Stranger: Inverted. Vianne uses her Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane chocolate powers to draw out the good in the townsfolk. Their passions, love for life and each other, etc.
- Trailers Always Lie: Some previews suggested that the movie was about someone selling aphrodisiacs disguised as chocolate. This happened in the film, sort of, but only once, and it didn't become a plot point.
- Villainous Breakdown: The Comte has a gentle one at the end of the movie, where he breaks into the chocolate shop intending to destroy it... then he accidentally tastes the chocolate. The rush of simple delight he feels opens a floodgate for all the emotions he's been keeping bottled up inside, and he ends up devouring chocolate while sobbing, until he finally curls up in the remains of the Easter display and falls asleep, to be awoken the next morning by Vianne and a effervescent tablet in glass of water. So it could be said that he gets his just desserts. Vianne is kind to him though and says she won't tell anyone.