Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th August 1999
Distributed by: Trimark Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 13
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Anne Wheeler
Also starring: Kevin Mundy
"Better Than Chocolate" is a lesbian, coming-out, romantic comedy-dramawith a few endearing twists that make it somewhat more memorable than mostmovies of its ilk.
What sets it apart certainly isn't the script -- whichfollows a Screenwriting 101 story arch of conservative moms, sexy, tentativefirst-time love scenes and generic tolerance conflicts, and wraps everythingup right on cue with an all-too-tidy finale of acceptance and understanding.
But each of these pre-fabricated and/or improbable elementsis given the spark of refurbishment by a splendid cast, enthusiastic aboutmaking "Chocolate" an unabashed audience-pleaser, which it is.
Our young lovers are 24-ish Kim (Christina Cox) -- a demi-butchaspiring artist with gym-built biceps, plucked brows and babydoll barrettes,and Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) -- an effervescent, 19-year-old femme whose uptight,housewifey, twinsets-and-pearls mother has rather inconveniently just arrivedat her rebelliously ramshackle warehouse loft for an unannounced and extendedstay while her unexpected divorce is finalized.
Already on the verge of a nervous breakdown after beingblind-sided by father's affair, mom (Wendy Crewson) is in no shape to haveher daughter's sexuality sprung on her, so the girls are stuck in the throesof a budding romance that they are forced to keep clandestine, much toKim's chagrin.
They playfully flirt behind mom's back. Quietly, they makelove at night, until they're caught by Maggie's titillated teenage brother.Part of the little time they have alone is spent in sexy, romantic scenes,like a sensual and supremely cinematic body-painting passage that managesto be both steamy and artistic, steering clear of potential softcore territory.
Canadian director Anne Wheeler lends "Chocolate"an undeniable passion, and it has an obliging sense of humor, helped alongby its population of salty secondary characters -- like the testy, uptightlesbian book shop proprietor (Anne-Marie McDonald), the testosterone-taxedcafe owner (Tony Nappo) who finishes every sentence with a comma followedby the F word, and a rather unconvincing pre-op transsexual (Peter Outerbridge).
The picture is uneven and occasionally obvious, especiallywhen it comes to the naive mother's path of self-discovery and capitulation(Step One: Find the box of vibrators hidden under the bed. Step Two: Usethem while belting out opera. Step Three: Lighten up, get happy, embraceMaggie's lifestyle.). But even though some scenes feel staged, and eventhough Wheeler occasionally preaches to the choir on the topics of toleranceand feminism, "Better Than Chocolate" is magnificent at manufacturingsmiles.
Dwyer and Cox couldn't be a more appealing couple, evenas their relationship waxes and wanes in the wake of Maggie's unsuspectingmom, and in spite of its periodic, prefabricated conflicts (enter skinheads,stage right) this is a smart, cheerful, movie that's hard not to like.
A festival circuit favorite through the first half of thisyear, "Chocolate" didn't win any best picture awards, which isn'tsurprising, but it did score a few audience prizes, which is perfectlyapropos.