A fanciful fairy tale for grown-ups, "Chocolat" takes place in a sleepy French village, circa 1959, and stars Juliette Binoche as a nomadic confectioner of sublime candy delicacies whose arrival -- just as Lent has begun -- stirs curiosity, gossip and scornful disdain among the locals.
Happy-go-lucky in the face of adversity and apparently a boat-rocker by nature, she sets up shop practically across the street from the church, providing almost cruel temptation to a population observing 40 days of fasting and penitence.
But the influence of the chocolaterie and its proprietor soon extends beyond simple taste bud enticement. Her enchanted chocolates and therapeutic personality have soon rekindled the marriage of a local couple, returned a smile to the face of her cantankerous landlady (Judi Dench), and inspired an abused wife (Lena Olin) to leave her husband (and come work for Binoche). This disruption in the status quo ruffles the feathers of the zealous and austere local nobleman (Alfred Molina), who considers the chocolate shop to be the work of the devil and sets his mind to seeing Binoche run out of town for interrupting the village's static tranquility.
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