Friday August 13, 1999
"Better Than Chocolate" is a breezy romantic comedy that finds a vivacious Vancouver 19-year-old, Maggie (Karyn Dwyer), dropping out of college to take a job at a lesbian bookstore, figuring that since she wants to be a writer she needs to do some learning from life itself. As it happens, a cool, stunning blond, Kim (Christina Cox), an itinerant artist, has set up her easel nearby. The attraction between the two is instantaneous and mutual, and with Kim's van parked nearby, swiftly consummated. Maggie couldn't be more delighted.
Then she gets the wholly unexpected phone call from her mother, Lila (Wendy Crewson), saying that her husband, Maggie's stepfather, has left her and that she and Maggie's younger brother Paul (Kevin Mundy), who live some distance away, are on their way to move in with her. Maggie hasn't exactly been leveling with her mother, who doesn't know that she's dropped out of school, sleeping at the bookstore, dancing nights at a lesbian nightclub--or even that she's a lesbian.
Caught completely off-base, Maggie's not ready to be candid with her mother. She scrambles to find suitable living quarters, landing a loft that she is able to rent only on a short-term basis. You can tell that Maggie has too open and sunny a personality not to come out to her mother eventually, and you sense that she simply would like to be able to pick and choose the circumstances. Of course, you don't always have such luxury of choice, but that's just one of life's lessons that Maggie is about to learn.
Writer Peggy Thompson and director Anne Wheeler are intent upon striking a blithe, upbeat note, but that doesn't keep them from taking note of some of the harsher realities. The bookstore is beginning to be targeted by the puritanically minded for carrying a line of sex toys; Maggie and Kim are thrown out of a local cafe for kissing in public; and Maggie's transsexual friend Judy (Peter Outerbridge) is vulnerable to harassment at its most hateful.
While she feels understandably crushed by the breakup of her marriage, Lila seems well-meaning, though ripe for revitalizing her own life and expanding her horizons. However, as the film wears on, she seems increasingly obtuse in regard to her daughter's sexual orientation, which has the effect of undermining the movie's credibility. What's more, you don't get the feeling that she could possibly be so rigidly homophobic that she would actually reject her daughter for being a lesbian.
Even though you could wish that "Better Than Chocolate" was a little more substantially developed, it nonetheless brims over with good humor and high spirits and has some moments of stunning yet tasteful eroticism. Dwyer and Cox are charmers, and that's also the case with "Better Than Chocolate."
Better Than Chocolate, 1999. Unrated. A Trimark Pictures release. Director Anne Wheeler. Producer Sharon McGowan. Writer/co-producer Peggy Thompson. Cinematographer Gregory Middleton. Music Graeme Coleman. Costumes Brad Gough. Production designer David Roberts. Art director Kate King. Set decorator Penny Chalmers. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Karyn Dwyer as Maggie. Christina Cox as Kim. Wendy Crewson as Lila. Peter Outerbridge as Judy/Jeremy.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun