Friday, August 22, 2008

Juliette Binoche, Chocolat

It so often happens that a stylish movie (stylish judging by my weird criterion) makes me go way pass the flaws and develop a certain obsession for one or two elements from the film. The scene (frame) that has stayed with me for years will be revealed later. It involves the surprisingly Oscar-nominated performance given by this very beautiful and talented actress…

approximately 55 minutes and 51 seconds
48.4% of the film


A woman and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community.

Hell, yeah:
This is not the average Best Picture nominee; or let’s just say it covers the soft / light spot in a Best Picture lineup. The chocolate is a plus :) Same with the art direction, the costume design, the whole look of the film. The music is adequate and Judi Dench gives a very nice supporting performance. It’s a light feel-good movie that I really enjoy.

Oh, no:
Lena Olin had an awful character that threw the movie off-balance. Alfred Molina didn’t impress me either.

Juliette Binoche, as Vianne Rocher

The Good:

I’m shaking things up a bit and starting with a moment towards the ending of the film. This is also the obsession that’s I’ve mentioned before. It’s minute 95 and Vianne is on the pontoon, listening to what the north wind has to say.

It’s a key moment in the film. It suggests that this free-spirited woman is ready to move to another town, it’s a sign from her ancestors that it’s time to go. And there she is: beautiful Juliette Binoche in her stunning 1960s outfit, with the killer red shoes, about to give it all up again.

It’s a quiet scene of intense beauty. Juliette manages to perfectly transmit the determination of the character. I love it.

As the film starts, there’s not much to say about Juliette’s performance as Vianne. She plays it cool, calm, letting the chocolate get all the attention.
There’s a scene where she fights the count, telling him she’s not easily intimidated.

Then Johnny Depp steps in, and she becomes more of a foxy attractive woman, yet still natural, maybe even playful. Vianne is a tough cookie, yet very down to earth and Juliette does a nice job portraying that.
But, there will be tears. In a moment of vulnerability, she admits to her friend that all the adversity from some townspeople takes its toll on her. We love Vianne, her tears of joy or sadness. It’s something that Juliette does with all her characters: she makes them humane, believable and totally likeable.

There’s also an interesting mother - daughter relationship. Vianne is living in denial, as she won’t admit (until this one scene with Johnny’s character) that moving from one town to another has a strong negative effect on her daughter. Another moving scene that Juliette nails perfectly, showing emotion, yet not exaggerating.
The film has a beautiful ending; there’s no twist, but a certain scene comes as a surprise and offers a different conclusion to the story. Vianne is finally able to see the truth lying in front of her.

The Bad & the Ugly:
Nothing. Her low-key performance in the first part is just respecting the screenplay.

I have a weakness for the performance, the character, the look. I don’t know if it’s an Oscar winning performance, but she did exactly what she suppose to do with the given character and the lighter type of movie. YES, Bjork deserved to be nominated instead of her (and also to win), but it’s not Juliette’s fault. I am seriously hesitating between 3 stars or 4, but I think I’ll stay with , trying to be objective and comparing it with the other nominated performances.

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