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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Better Than Chocolate
Better Than Chocolate
Trimark
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Heather Picker | posted February 18, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Those looking to Canadian import Better Than Chocolate for hot girl-on-girl action will not be disappointed. They may, however, be surprised to find a contemporary lesbian-themed romance that manages to be both non-stereotypical and non-softcore pornography, boasting the requisite campy musical numbers of the modern GLBT flick, the requisite girl-powered soundtrack, and, less fortunately, the requisite skinheads. A festival favorite, Chocolate follows college-aged 10 Percent Books clerk and aspiring writer Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) as she falls fast and hard for artist Kim (Christina Cox). The potholes on their road to happiness? Within a few hours of them meeting and promptly covering each other in paint and rolling around on canvases, Maggie's family, high school student brother Paul (Kevin Mundy) and housewife mother Lila, whom she is not out to, arrives.

Lila's second husband is having an affair, and she and Kevin need to crash with Maggie. Of course, to maximize potential wackiness, Maggie, who had been sleeping at the bookstore, is forced to find a place on short notice, and ends up at the home of a sex education teacher who will be out of town for a while on assignment. The house is brimming with ill-hidden sex toys, so it is only natural that a depressed Lila eventually finds a better pick-me-up than chocolate.

Meanwhile, 10 Percent owner Frances (best-selling author Ann-Marie MacDonald), who dresses like Woody Allen but is more hostile, is battling officials who seize the books she orders at the border, claiming they are indecent. She is also being courted by pre-operative transsexual Judy (Peter Outerbridge), who, despite a cheerful and determined exterior, is brokenhearted by the rejection of her parents. Judy becomes friends with Lila and Kevin is treated to a sexual awakening courtesy of Carla (Marya Delver), Maggie's kinky co-worker, as Kim grows impatient waiting for Maggie to come out to her family.

There are no shocking revelations in Better Than Chocolate, but it has crossover appeal and is distinctly charming as an unabashed crowd-pleaser. Directed on a low budget by Anne Wheeler from a script by Peggy Thompson, the acting is largely manic and occasionally strained, but Dwyer and Cox are nonetheless engaging. Outerbridge gives the best performance; understated and vulnerable, he brings complexity to the role and makes Judy the most fascinating character in the film. Not to mention his rendition of "I'm Not a F**king Drag Queen," a highlight of a soundtrack that features the music of Ani DiFranco and Sarah MacLachlan, among others.

The DVD: Released on DVD by Trimark, Better Than Chocolate features an average video transfer (lacking anamorphic enhancement) that, given the film's origins, is acceptable. Though the picture is soft at times, there is no artifacting. Less satisfactory is the stereo soundtrack; I had to adjust the volume several times while watching the movie. Extra features include a theatrical trailer and a commentary by director Anne Wheeler. Wheeler manages to both focus on the film and discuss the trials and tribulations of low-budget filmmaking in general. Aspiring directiors should give the track a listen.

Priced at $24.99, Better Than Chocolate comes recommended to genre fans.
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