The Great Escape

Chain Gangs! Cast Aways! Kung Fu! Chocolate! ... It's Time for the Holiday Film Previews



D: Lasse Hallström; with Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lena Olin, Judi Dench.

After a series of ill-fitting roles in critical misfires (The Ninth Gate, The Astronaut's Wife), Johnny Depp reteams with director Lasse Hallström in their first collaboration since the gentle gem What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Chocolat tells the story of a single mother (Oscar winner Binoche) who moves to a little village in France and opens a confectionery. The sinfully decadent chocolate shop raises eyebrows amongst the town's more priggish folk, especially since it faces (and draws clientele from) the local church across the street. Depp places a mystery-shrouded stranger who wanders into town and, presumably, Binoche's heart. The film is faithfully based on the novel by Joanne Harris, but the original setting was changed to the Fifties, ostensibly for a more sentimental feel. Given Hallström's track record for wistfully sweet portraits (My Life as a Dog, The Cider House Rules), here's betting Chocolat is in able hands. (Dec. 22)

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