Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: Not Rated, but could be PG for mature themes. In French with English subtitles
Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
It’s been a long dry spell without a tasty French film to sink your teeth into, but “Chocolat” falls short of its delicious, suspenseful potential.
French sourpuss Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher”) finally gets to smile as chocolate company executive Mika, happily married to piano virtuoso André Polonski, and playing doting mom to Polonski’s son Guillaume. When a young piano student unexpectedly turns up at the Polonski chateau (with an offbeat tale of a switched-at-birth hospital snafu concerning herself and Guillaume), Mika exudes nothing but sympathy and a welcome-to-our-home warmth.
Lingering around the mystery of paternity is an untimely death and the quintessential nightcap-with-a-kick. Combined with perverse undercurrents of obsession and lust, this psychological thriller positively reeks of lofty expectations.
Where is classic French understatement when you need it most? The narrative plays its hand boldly and a little too clumsily, and Mika’s hidden agenda is established with a comparable lack of finesse. This should have been the stuff of sweet cinematic dreams, but its captivating conundrum is as subtle as a jackhammer.