movie reviews


chocolat poster

Chocolat is a period drama (with a touch of comedy and romance), set in a small French country village. The village is traditional and deeply religious. Piety and tranquility is at the order of the day. The mayor, Comte de Reynad (Alfdred Molina) keeps a firm hand, controlling every aspect of the villagers’ lives including the priest’s sermons. Vienne (Juliettee Bincoche) a  rootless, free-spirited, single mother arrives in town with her daughter, Anouk, in tow. Vienne rents out the village patisserie and movies into the apartment upstairs.  Vienne is a passionate chocolatier and opens a chocolate shop, where she whips up the most divine and decadent chocolate creations. Reynaud is not happy with this at all, since it is time for Lent and such indulgences are most improper. Vienne also does not share in the religious values of the town and this is somewhat troublesome. Despite resistance the villagers find themselves been drawn to the chocolaterie. Vienne’s charm and kindness finds it’s way into their hearts. Small changes begin a ripple effect in the life of the villagers.  One day a band of drifters arrive on their river boat. Vienne and Anouk befriend Roux (Johnny Depp), a charming, guitar playing, drifter. Reynaud is deeply uncomfortable with the presence of the drifters in his pristine village and he becomes more embittered against Vienne. Reynaud spreads his poison against Vienne, her patisserie and the drifters, making the outsiders feel even more unwelcome. Can Vienne find a home in the village or will the status-quo keep the upper hand?


Given how prominently Johnny Depp features in the poster and promotion of this film, his character shows up fairly late in the game. Though, Roux is a catalytic element in the plot and an essential part of the film. The brilliant performances from Binoche, Molina, Dench, Olin and Depp (but also the overall stellar cast) are skillfully directed. There is so much to the characters of this wonderful story: The young, slightly dark, boy who secretly is a sketch artist. The young village priest who listens to Elvis. The old woman, estranged from her daughter, who badly wants to see her grandson. The friendless, mousy, kleptomaniac who emerges from the shadow of her abusive tavern keeper husband and finds a best friend in Vienne. The old man with the little dog who is in love with a grieving widow.

Chocolat is as rich and beautiful as artisanal hand-made chocolates. Like chocolate the film is both bitter and sweet. It is a tale of repression, prejudice, conformity, individuality, resentment, friendship, acceptance and kindness. This is the perfect movie to watch when you feel stuck in a rut or if you just need a little bit of sweetness and inspiration.

You would probably like this film if you liked Pleasantville and Amelie.


Cast includes: Judi Dench, Carrie Ann Moss, Lena Olin, Peter Stormare, Hugh O’Conor

Director: Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules)
Screenplay: Robert Nelson Jacobs (The Shipping News, The Water Horse)
                     – Based on a novel by Joanne Harris
Duration: 121 mins
Release: 2000 (UK)
Age Restriction: 12



movie reviews

The Wrestler (2008)


Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is an aging professional wrestler. He struggles to make rent and has to pick up extra shifts at his day job.  The years of beatings to his body, steroid abuse and hair bleaching is taking its toll.  He seems to be pretty lonely.  He has regularly visits a stripper, Cassidy (Marissa Tomei), whom he develops an interest in.  His doctor recommends that he quits wrestling and Randy makes an effort to adjust to “normal” life. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), but she’s not too keen.  As things go awry, Randy finds himself being drawn back into wrestling.

The Wrestler was a big comeback for Mickey Rourke (actually his comeback was in 2005’s Sin City, but The Wrestler is a bigger role) who was quite popular in the 1980s (see 9½ Weeks and Angel Heart).  Rourke won best actor Golden Globe, BAFTA , Screen Actors Guild Award, etc and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Randy.  The lovely Marissa Tomei was nominated for and/or won several awards for her performance as Cassidy.

I’m not really into wrestling, but I thought the movie is quite brilliant. Like other films from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), The Wrestler is a portrait of human obsession and habit. It’s not a feel-good movie.  Randy’s world is pretty bleak. It is gritty and feels very real.

I would recommend this movie if you’re into serious human drama.

Written by: Robert Siegel
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Release: 2008
Rating: R
Running time: 1h 49min.

©lowercase v  2017 

movie reviews

Amélie (2001)


Rating: R      (South African DVD rating: 13)
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, is a French romantic comedy (with subtitles).

Amélie is introduced to us as a lonely only-child with a vivid imagination. As an adult, Amélie (Audrey Tautou) lives on her own and works as a waitress in a cafe in Paris. One day, she finds a mysterious box of keepsakes and she sets off to find its owner. On her journey she meets Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) and immediate feels a connection with him. She also set out to bring joy to the people around her, with random acts of kindness and anonymous little  surprises.

Amélie is well written and directed. It has a great cast and is over all well-crafted. The omnipresent voice over narrator that adds flavour to the story. The characters are funny and interesting, with quirky character introductions. This is a very entertaining romantic comedy and one of my favourite movies.

Amélie received several awards and nominations including awards for writing, cinematography, editing, production design, acting and “Best foreign language film”.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writers: Guillaume Laurant &  Jean-Pierre Jeunet 
Full cast and crew on imdb.



©lowercase_v   2017