movie reviews

Chocolat

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

 

©2018

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book reviews

The Book Thief

book thief

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by Death.  The main character is a little German girl named Liesel Meminger, who goes to live with foster parents. Her mother is gone and her brother is dead.

She steals her first book off a corpse and the rescues/ steals some subsequent books.  Her foster father, Hans, teaches her to read and she becomes an avid reader. She is a smart, tough little girl who likes to play football with the boys.  She befriends a boy called Rudy, who is her neighbour, and they become inseparable.  She and her foster family do not share the Nazi ideals. They hide a Jewish man, Max,  in their basement who becomes a very good friend to both Liesel and her family.  Though, hiding Max does put them in a very precarious situation.

The novel is perhaps a little heavy for vacation reading, but it has many light moments and is really well written.  A very intriguing and mesmerizing read.  The book includes German phrases, but they are also explained in English.  It is a beautiful story about humanity, love and friendship.

You would probably like this if you like The Boy in Striped Pajamas.  I would recommend this book.   There has been a movie made about this book, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I would highly recommend this book.

©lowercase v    2017 

movie reviews

Hidden Figures

hidden figures

Running time: 127 minutes    Rating: PG

Based on a true story, Hidden Figures is set in 1960s America during the Space Race and follows 3 African American women working as mathematicians at NASA. Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is a math genius who makes the crucial calculations needs to put astronaut John Glen (Glen Powell) in space and bring him safely back home. Apart from a cold reception she faces annoying practical issues like having to run to a different building to use the bath room because there are no “colored restrooms” in her office building.  Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) is practically a supervisor, but lacks the job title or paycheck that reflects it. Mary Jackson ( Janelle Monáe)  has the ability and desire to be a NASA engineer, but is blocked because of her race and gender.

The supporting cast includes: Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon) and a very demure Kirsten Dunst.

I loved this movie. It really shows the race and gender discrimination these women had to face on a daily basis. It’s sad (the reflection of the time period) and  you feel frustrated with the characters, but mostly it is inspirational.  There are many sweet little moments and moments of small (though ultimately large) victories.  A  poignant moment for me is when Katherine loses her high heeled shoe in the male dominated NASA environment (though I personally avoid wearing high heels at all costs).

There were only 3 other viewers in the cinema and they were all black women. I really hope this is only because it was at a quiet time and that more people are watching this movie in the evenings and on weekends.

Go/No Go?
It’s definitely a go! Not as a chick flick. Everyone should watch it. Kids too.

Director: Theodore Melfi
Screenplay:  Allison Schroeder &  Theodore Melfi
                         (based on the book by: Margot Lee Shetterly)
Awards:
The cast won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.  Hidden figures was nominated for 3 Oscars,  2 Golden Globes and  a Bafta. It also received several other  award wins and nominations.

Full cast and crew on IMDB.

 

©lowercase v 2017.