Courtesy Photo
*** stars 101 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, August 13, 1999
Directed by Anne Wheeler

Starring Karyn Dwyer, Christina Cox, Wendy Crewson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Marya Delver, Kevin Mundy & Peter Outerbridge

Interview with stars Karyn Dwyer & Christina Cox


Seat-of-the-pants low-budget production might seem a little home-movie-ish on video, but the characters are so appealing it makes no difference. Great, romantic rental - and you don't have to be lesbian to get it and enjoy it.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12/28/99

Mom's surprise visit hinders budding girl-girl romance in winsome 'Chocolate'

By Rob Blackwelder

"Better Than Chocolate" is a lesbian, coming-out, romantic comedy-drama with a few endearing twists that make it somewhat more memorable than most movies of its ilk.

What sets it apart certainly isn't the script -- which follows a Screenwriting 101 story arch of conservative moms, sexy, tentative first-time love scenes and generic tolerance conflicts, and wraps everything up right on cue with an all-too-tidy finale of acceptance and understanding.

But each of these pre-fabricated and/or improbable elements is given the spark of refurbishment by a splendid cast, enthusiastic about making "Chocolate" an unabashed audience-pleaser, which it is.

Our young lovers are 24-ish Kim (Christina Cox) -- a demi-butch aspiring 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 arrived at her rebelliously ramshackle warehouse loft for an unannounced and extended stay while her unexpected divorce is finalized.

Already on the verge of a nervous breakdown after being blind-sided by father's affair, mom (Wendy Crewson) is in no shape to have her daughter's sexuality sprung on her, so the girls are stuck in the throes of a budding romance that they are forced to keep clandestine, much to Kim's chagrin.

They playfully flirt behind mom's back. Quietly, they make love 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 manages to 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 along by its population of salty secondary characters -- like the testy, uptight lesbian book shop proprietor (Anne-Marie McDonald), the testosterone-taxed cafe owner (Tony Nappo) who finishes every sentence with a comma followed by the F word, and a rather unconvincing pre-op transsexual (Peter Outerbridge).

The picture is uneven and occasionally obvious, especially when 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: Use them while belting out opera. Step Three: Lighten up, get happy, embrace Maggie's lifestyle.). But even though some scenes feel staged, and even though Wheeler occasionally preaches to the choir on the topics of tolerance and feminism, "Better Than Chocolate" is magnificent at manufacturing smiles.

Dwyer and Cox couldn't be a more appealing couple, even as their relationship waxes and wanes in the wake of Maggie's unsuspecting mom, 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 this year, "Chocolate" didn't win any best picture awards, which isn't surprising, but it did score a few audience prizes, which is perfectly apropos.


powered by FreeFind
SPLICEDwire home
Online Film Critics Society
All Rights Reserved
Return to top
Current Reviews
SPLICEDwire Home