Maybe director Lasse ("The Cider House Rules") Hallstrom could do me a favor and stop trying to teach me lessons about everything, because I know for damn sure there have got to be quite a few things I could teach him. For instance: Ultra-soft bathroom tissue is never a bad idea, and do not put the steak into your mouth with the same force you used to put the fork into the steak.
Lasse seems little interested in telling stories and more interested in teaching morals -- and politically correct ones, at that. His big message in this fairy tale of a woman named Vianne (Juliette Binoche), who comes to a small village and opens a chocolate shop? TOLERANCE. Holy crap, Lasse, that lesson belongs right up there with "Why it's bad to murder" and "Don't punish children by putting them in an oven."
You see, Vianne has a daughter, Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) but isn't married. Immediately, the mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), starts talking badly about her in church. Her child is a bastard and she's opened a chocolate shop during Lent! The horror! Apparently, this means that she should be ridiculed and driven out of town. Unfortunately for the mayor, Vianne is just the woman at just the right time for Josephine (Lena Olin), whose husband (Peter Stormare) beats her, and for an old woman (Judi Dench) who is estranged from her daughter (Carrie-Anne Moss) and grandson (some little twerp).
Naturally, the entire town is Christian while Vianne is a non-believer, which explains their behavior. Now, I'm just as anti-Christian as the next anti-Christian, but it's not exactly news that Church-goers are intolerant, which is probably why we keep getting these stories over and over again, which probably means they're not having much effect. However, it's not exactly like most other religions have heeded this tolerance call. It's just that when you make fun of Jews or Muslims, either the anti-defamation league forces you into hiding or somebody blows up a cheap car near your house. Sure, the Christians are prone to dragging a person around on a chain or slaughtering a village or two, but for the most part, they respond by whining about how persecuted they are. Perhaps all this intolerance has less to do with any specific religion and just with how stupid people are.
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