Starring: Isabelle Carre, Benoit Poelvoorde, Christine Demarest, and Lorella Cravotta
Distributor: Palace Films
Runtime: 80 mins. Reviewed in Apr 2012
This delightful French, subtitled comedy tells the story of Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde) and Angelique (Isabelle Carre), who both work in a chocolate factory in the heart of France. He owns it, and she sells the chocolate. Their attachment is fuelled by a shared passion for chocolate, and they both fall in love with each other.
Without really admitting it to themselves or to others, both Jean-Rene and Angelique are pathologically shy. Their main problem in life is to overcome their total lack of self-confidence, and neither can face the consequences of revealing their feelings to anyone, let alone to each other. They are too shy to manage a date outside their work situation. Both Jean-Rene and Angelique are hyper-sensitive and over-emotional and have a pathological fear of being invaded by others and having their privacy shattered. It is completely ironic that the film commences with Angelique singing a song from the “Sound of Music” (1965), titled “I have Confidence In Me”.
Angelique attends an Emotional-Anonymous meeting for people with personality problems, and Jean-Rene is undergoing therapy separately for his emotional conflicts. Their shyness is paralysing, and both have a dreaded fear of human contact. The film’s humour is not riotous, but disarmingly gentle, and it achieves some extraordinarily tender moments of pathos. What finally brings the two together is their awareness that the other shares a similar problem.
Angelique saves the chocolate company from economic ruin by introducing a new chocolate line that overcomes the boredom of what Jean-Rene has been producing for years. Angelique, though, can’t own up to Jean-Rene or her fellow-workers (Lorella Cravotta is among them) that she is the talented chocolate-maker, who is responsible. The chocolate factory has to sell its new product, and Angelique gets one of her vendors, Madame Legrand (Christine Demarest), who manages a chocolate store, to agree to sample the new line. It proves a great success. A convention is arranged to launch the new product and Jean-Rene, and Angelique are forced to share the same hotel room, which challenges them both enormously.
Poelvoorder is slightly Tati-like in how he handles comedy, and his shyness results typically in hesitant pauses, lots of clothes-changing, and awkward body movements. Angelique’s shyness finds expression in lots of nervous glances, wide smiles, and deep, strategic breathing. The simplicity of their acting makes their plight totally endearing. This is a film that explores tentative romance honestly and realistically, and it creates moments of incredible sweetness and bitterness, a little like (as the film implies) the new chocolate everybody has been waiting for.
In the background of this modern-day comedy of manners, the film exhibits typical French type situations that manage to create a good deal of hilarity. Jean-Rene is caught in a ridiculous bout of shirt-changing and escapes from his first date (with Angelique) through the restaurant’s bathroom window, and Jean-Rene’s therapist works hilariously at providing him with exercises to get him to look more romantic and move accordingly, culminating in a bout of hand-holding with Angelique that results in some very awkward touching.
This is a sweet, light and original film that is well-directed, and it humanly portrays terrible insecurity. Despite the pathos of the subject matter that the movie deals with, the film is funny and immensely likeable.
What the movie ultimately affirms is that true love is worth the possible fear, and anxiety that could flow from its consequences. The film communicates the very positive message that finding love that is returned is unquestionably worth the risk.
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