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Better Than Chocolate (1999, 101 minutes)

October 8, 2010

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Summary:

“Better Than Chocolate” is a light hearted comedy about the lives of queer folks in Vancouver. Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) and Kim (Christina Cox) meet and quickly fall in lust as Kim quickly sketches Maggie on the street. Kim is a wandering artist and has no place to stay so logically she stays with Maggie. Maggie doesn’t really have a place either but the solution arises when she sublets an apartment from a sex worker, who becomes a source for some of the movie’s humor. Maggie’s bigger problem comes when her mother and brother decided to move in with Maggie. Deeply in the closet, Maggie juggles her new love with the secrecy in her family.

Review:

I wanted to like this movie, the trailer had promised so much. Unfortunately, this movie was not what it promised. I went in looking for a romance between Maggie and Kim and found out it was really about Maggie’s mother Lila (Wendy Crewson), and their transgender friend Judy (Peter Outerbridge). I don’t even know why Maggie and Kim came to like each other because there was hardly a conversation between them. Don’t get me wrong, I like sexy scenes between women as much as the next person, but I like them in context of chemistry, love… I couldn’t sense much of either here. In a crucial scene, Maggie and Kim find each other after a separation and a tragedy, the first thing they do is make out (not kiss), not a word of concern for the other. I thought that both characters were underwritten and uninteresting.. Kim is an artist… that’s it; Maggie, a student looking for a cause.

On the other hand Lila and Judy are fully developed characters and are also perhaps played by better actors. Lila is a woman in transition. Her husband has just left her and she doesn’t know what to do. Desperately hanging on to her old ways, she tries to find meaning in a world she never thought she would need to confront on her own. Judy is the key to her new life. She’s a good friend, a shoulder to cry on, but Judy is also a man waiting for a sex change operation. Lila and Judy’s relationship is the best defined relationship in the movie. However, it was not the focus of the movie and suffered from that as well. The Lila/Judy movie might have been a better more interesting movie.

I read an interview where the director said that she had asked people what they wanted to see in the movies. Apparently, they said sex toys (they didn’t ask me obviously). This explains the inclusion of sex toys throughout the movie. Given the current trend where queer films try to please everyone (example: Relax it’s just sex), this movie pleases no one. Was it a political movie? Was it a romance? A buddy movie? Surely, the serious issue of Canadian censorship of gay materials deserves more attention than this movie gave it. This movie tries to have it all, even lavish “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” like show numbers (although, not as fun or as outrageous).  In the end, it really has nothing.

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