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Better than Chocolate (1999)

by on 2012/12/18

Better than Chocolate (1999)

“You’re like that tornado in the Wizard of Oz, sweeping up everything in your path.”

* * * *

Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) is a new Vancouverite, on retreat from northern Ontario. A slightly flaky hippie chick type, she works — and lives on a couch — in a local bookshop, the Ten Percent. She soon meets itinerant artist, Kim (Christina Cox of Blood Ties, here channelling T2’s Linda Hamilton), and they promptly fall in lust and, a week later, love.

Nearly the moment they sublet a loft, Maggie’s mother Lila (Wendy Crewson of Away from Her) arrives . . . and Lila doesn’t realize her daughter is a lesbian. Or that Peter Outerbridge’s character Judy is transgender. Or how to respect their privacy, be considerate, or park a car.

In fact, the mother so irritated me, I got a sense of why she’d been abandoned. Of course, she’s meant to come around and have a kind heart, basically. Even — or especially — the most casual movie-goer will recognize the romantic comedy tropes.

Yet it has an almost-dramatic side too, with subplots and deadly serious threads, woven throughout in a manner which never detracts. Rather than interrupting the main action, these satellites shine, every one. Judy has trouble winning the eye of Frances (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing’s Ann-Marie MacDonald). For her part, Frances battles literary censorship. And each of them face adversity from without and within.

I wish I could say it was perfect. It wasn’t but, happily, the things I disliked were minor, at least minor enough for me to cast aside. Goofy high-speed time-lapsing, clumsy chocolate references, and textual codas . . . somehow by the end these didn’t bother me very much. The occasional clunks are easily outweighed by the prevalent good.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Better than Chocolate, or see it again myself (and no, not for the nudity). It all feels well-intended, entertaining, and charming. It even provides some insight into issues of intolerance, while always remaining light and accessible, like a Touch of Pink with a touch of politics.

* * * *

Rated 18A (Canada) / R (United States)

101 minutes

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