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January 10, 2001 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-01-10

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Spike Lee in the house...
ne Right Thing and catch the Spike
Le joint of the same name tonight at
the Michigan League. 8 pm. Free.

ARTS

WEDNESDAY
JANUARY 10, 2001

5.

michigandaily.com /arts

Visual splendor and enchanting plotline
make 'Chocolat' a delectable treat

By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving. But in
the winningly delightful "Chocolat," the' rich con-
fections you see are probably even better than they
look. Director Lasse Hallstr6m of "The Cider
House Rules" scores yet again with this surprising-
ly funny and warmhearted adaptation of Joanne
Harris' novel of the same name.
From the get-go, the film reads like a storybook
fable, set in one of those quaint French provincial

courtesy of Miramax
in a scene from "A Hard Day's Night," John Lennon tries to "snort coke" as a
distinguished Englishman looks on in utter revulsion. John, you out-up!
'Hard Day's Night'
still a rock 'n' roll iot

Chocolat
Grade: B+
At Showcase
%1',~,

towns with an array of colorful
characters. When the unmar-
ried Vianne Rocher (Juliette
Binoche) and her young
daughter, Anouk (Victoire
Thivisol) journey into town
one snowy afternoon, the small
population is immediately both
suspicious and enchanted by
the pair. Vianne decides to rent
an abandoned patisserie from
grouchy old landlady Amande
Voizin (Judi Dench). In an
exhilarating sequence, she
transforms the drab building
into a decadent chocolate shop,

chocolates. Her two most loyal friends are Voizin
and Josephine (Lena Olin), the mentally unstable,
beaten wife of an abusive cafe owner (Peter
Stormare). Vianne serves up a cup of cocoa and she
trades life stories with her customers, learning that
they aren't as one-dimensional as they seem. Like
in "The Cider House Rules," Hallstrom's deft
understanding of the human condition creates some
tender moments among the characters.
Considering the seriousness of the subject matter,
the film is often quite humorous. It's hilarious to
watch Molina's embittered mayor resist the tempta-
tions of the shop and O'Conor's priest is downright
hysterical. In one of the film's funniest scenes, he
sings to Elvis's "Hound Dog" while tending to the
graveyard, only to explain to the mayor, "I have a
weakness for American music." The magical pow-
ers of Vianne's chocolates also create some comical
situations for a loveless couple. And while many of
the other characters are embittered, they have a
method of self-mockery that maintains the light-
hearted feel of "Chocolat.
Most of the film's weaknesses stem from the
loopholes in the plot. Rouk (Johnny Depp), a trav-
eling boatman, enters so late in the film that the
story line can't accompany the full weight of his
arrival. We also never know why Vianne travels
from town to town without ever seeming to settle
down, and the mayor's personal frustrations are
never fully explained.
The incredible cast disguises these weaknesses,
however, and the radiant Binoche carries the film to
a satisfying conclusion. Binoche, an Oscar winner
for "The English Patient," comes off as sexy, yet
wholesome, and delivers even the corniest of lines
quite convincingly. Dench and Olin are equally fine,
and both may see more Oscar nods for their touch-
ing portrayals. Even Matrix-babe Carrie-Anne Moss
delivers as Dench's cold, controlling daughter. But
the film belongs to Molina, who wonderfully brings
to life a likable, humorous villain.
Besides, the film is so gorgeous you're likely to

By Chris Kula
Daily Arts Writer
ou know, if the whole greatest-pop-
ular-music-group-of-the-20th-Century
gig }hadn't worked out for them, the
Beatles could have made a fine living
as a comedy team.
"A Hard Day's Night," the group's
1964: feature film debut; does a first-

A Hard
Day's Night
Grade: A-
The Michigan Theater
through Thursday

rate job of cele-
brating the witty
charm that was
so integral to the
band's mass
appeal in its
mop-top era.
And much 'like
the sugary pop
hits that the

Beatles pro-
duced during
that timie period,
the "Hard Day's
Night" film is
0 timeless in terms
of pure entertainment.
The musical movie documents a fic-
titious day in the hectic life of the Fab
Four at the height of Beatlemania.
Director Richard Lester adeptly fol-
lows John, Paul, George and Ringo as
they fend off rabid fans, cavort around
London and generally get themselves
into various degrees of trouble. There's
*ly a moment lacking action, as the
fim moves froin one zany episode to
the next faster than you can say Sir
George Martin.
The situations in which the Beatles
are placed are completely uncomplicat-
ed, yet entirely enjoyable in their sim-
plicity. Seeing the foursome romp

around a soccer field while acting like
Ritalin-deprived schoolchildren is
priceless, because it captures the kind
of fresh-faced enthusiasm that lessened
as the Beatles' recording career pro-
gressed (although imagining an Abbey
Road-era John Lennon playing
leapfrog with a bearded Paul
McCartney might have even greater
comic value).
Despite the film's fairly silly
vignettes, the script by Alun Owen is
actually quite clever. The dialogue is
sharp and snappy, and it gives the
Beatles ample opportunities to show
off their droll group chemistry. John
possesses natural comic timing, while
George has the best dead-pan this side
of "The Daily Show." And Ringo?
Well, Ringo's the drummer, and for
most bands, that's a punch line in itself.
Yes, the Beatles could have been big-
ger than "Monty Python's, Flying
Circus" if they'd have stuck with com-
edy, but as musicians they [had to settle
just with being bigger than Jesus. The
music in "A Hard Day's Night" com-
prises the album of the same name, and
includes such hpwmony-laden classics
as "Can't Buy Me Love," "A Hard
Day's Night," "And I Love 11cr" and
"She Loves You."
The music -early Beatles at its best
- is the real heart of the film, and "A
Hard Day's Night" serves it well. But
of course, even a film about paint dry-
ing would seem simply smashing if it
had a Lennon/McCartney score.
Between these delightful musical
numbers and the large doses of absur-
dist humor, seeing the Beatles on the
big screen is far from a hard day's night
- it's a real pleasure.

e just in time for Lent.
One of the characteristics of the town is its some-
what icy conservatism, which is reinforced by its
mayor, Comte de Raynaud (Alfred Molina). The
Sunday masses are gloomy and scripted by the
mayor, yet recited by the bumbling young priest,
portrayed by Hugh O'Conor. Crushed by his own
feelings of inadequacy, Raynaud tries to suppress
the self-indulgence that Vianne advocates through
her shop.
Hallstrdm devotes the most screen time to the
shop, and we're all the better for it. Most of the
town's citizens warm up to Vianne eventually, trad-
ing in their Lenten vows for a taste of the rich

Mind-reading ability lets Mel
Gibson in on 'What Women Want'

Courtesy of Miramra
Johnny Depp wants a piece in "Chocolat."
even look past the acting and take in the visual
splendor of the French countryside and thosc
delectable desserts. So go ahead, indulge yoursel¢.
and feast your eyes on one of the season's biggcs
treats.

By Wilhelmina Mauritz
Daily Arts Writer
Mel Gibson was born to play Nick
Marshall, the 'lead character in
"What Women Want." Nick is a male
chauvinist ad executive before a

Co ertesy of Paramount Pictures
Helen Hunt looks too hot for her man-
eating image in "What Women Want."

J
What
Women
Want
Grade: B
At Showcase
- s
he realizes that he
gift.

freak accident
involving a
bathtub and a
hairdryer gives
him the ability
to hear what
women are
thinking.
At first Nick
sees his new-
found ability as
a curse, but after
a chat with his
therapist (an
amusing cameo
by Bette Midler)
has been given a

Great character chemistry
m akes Jack & Jill' a must-see

combination of machismo combined
with a sweet sincerity. Not many
serious male actors today would
actually agree to wax their legs,
paint their fingernails a bright red
and wear control top pantyhose, but
Gibson does all three while still
maintaining his style, grace and,
need I mention, his masculinity.
There is also a great sequence of
scenes involving Nick coming into
* work and marching his way through
the lobby of people via his office.
The first scene occurs before Nick
has the mind reading ability, the sec-
ond the morning he gets it and the
third once he has really begun to
understand and appreciate women
for who they are and who they want
to be. These three scenes are won-
derful and Gibson does a perfect job
at using them to show his transfor-
mation.
Speaking of transformations, the
relationship Nick has with his
daughter at the start of the movie is
a bit lacking to say the very least.
Nick is too involved in his own life
and, not surprisingly, his daughter
has nothing but contempt for him.
Once he realizes how she feels about
him as a father, he does everything
he can to try and change her feelings
including dress shopping for prom
and a loving heart-to-heart chat with
her in the girl's restroom.
The one main flaw in "What

Women Want" was Helen Hunt. Nov
I have loved Helen Hunt since "Th
Princess Quarterback" (a cheesy T
movie that was made long befor,
"Mad About You) so my complaint
have nothing to do with her person.
ally.
Aside from the fact that Gibsor
and Hunt had absolutely no chem.
istry together, I do not believe that
Hunt was the right woman for this
movie. Hunt is a beautiful 'actress.
She is what I like to call a "natural
beauty." But, in "What Women
Want" they were trying to make het
into an ultra-glamorous gal with
long blonde hair, short mini-skirts
and stiletto heels while still trying t
maintain the image that she was a
tough man-eating businesswoman,
It just did not work.
The idea of being able to get
inside the minds of others will
always be a fascinating topic and
"What Women Want" works well
with the idea of 'what if,' even
including a poignant sub-plot about
a young office clerk that is thinking
about killing herself. At times I
wished that they would use Nick's
ability a little more since I wanted to
hear the mind of every woman that
he passed. I also liked the idea that
the best woman for Nick, after he
can read women's mind, is one that
always speaks her mind (even if it is
Helen Hunt).

By Melissa Gollob
Daily Arts Writer
Tonight on the WB, "Jack & Jill"
returns for its sophomore season with 13
c*ecutive episodes replacing
"Felicity" which vacated its timeslot
after its winter finale last month. This
hour drama will try and repeat last sea-
son's success by presenting both the
humorous and heartbreaking sides of

Nick soon realizes that he doesn't
know women as well as he thought
he did (nor do a lot of them like him
as much as he thought they did) and
so Nick uses his mind reading abili-
ties to improve many of his relation-
ships with the women in his life, one
of these being his own daughter. He
also uses his talent to try and get the
job that he lost to a woman, Darcy,
played by Helen Hunt.
Gibson gives Nick the perfect

Jack & Jill
0 The W B
Tonight at 9
"~

dating after col-
lege. Six friends
continue their
quest for love and
money while
negotiating the
pressures of adult-
hood. It's love in
the big city and
they demonstrate
well how compli-
cated dating in
your twenties can
be.
"Jack & Jill"
begins in the midst

Spiritual choral music of Moses
Hogan Singers looks to be a hit

Courtesy of The WB
Ivan Sergei and Amanda Peet star as Jack and Jill (although not necessarily In that
order) in the similarly-named WB dating drama, which begins its second season tonight.

By Rosemary Metz
Daily Arts Writer
The bleak and icy grip of a mid-January evening will be
warmed and melted when the Moses Hogan Chorale

oP cqueline "Jack" Barrett (Amanda
P~, "The Whole Nine Yards") and
Davtd "Jill" Jillefsky's (Ivan Sergei,
"The Opposite of Sex") relationship as it
turns into a serious commitment. It has
been a year since Jacqueline left her
cheating fiance at the alter and moved to
New York City. Her attraction to her

Pressly, "Can't Hardly Wait")' She has
lived in L.A. for the past four months
acting in a movie. She returns to her
apologetic boyfriend Barto (Justin Kirk,
"Love! Valor! Compassion!") as he
attempts to win her back after he slept
with someone else before she left for her
job.
Barto's persistent nature leads him to
open his heart to Audrey even though her
signals insist their relationship is

relief. Elisa also finds herself in trouble
when she switches tables and sits next to
a single guy, who after one dance wants
her to meet his parents. The insight the
characters give each other about the
opposite sex throughout the episode
offers opportunities to laugh at the stu-
pidity of the characters trying to figures
each other out.
The show basically balances out its
bad points with its good ones. It turns
fromv comlicall to serious suiddenly, which

makes its UMS
H ogan
Sijngers
St. Francis of Assisi
Tonight at 8

debut on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in St.
Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
Based in New Orleans, the Chorale
has performed in distant, far-flung
venues, such as the famed Sydney
Opera House in Australia, and the
John F. Kennedy Center. In 1996, the
Chorale was one of two American
choirs invited to sing at the World
Choral Symposium. The Chorale
thus became the first African
American choir to appear in the
Symposiums ten-year history.

agents for the African American community. From the
horrors of the Middle Passage, even before the first slave
stepped upon colonial American soil, music and song
the drums and chants of Africa, were integral to the expe-
rience. Spirituals lifted up the slaves soul during the
arduous days of plantation life. Song became a part of
escape to freedom, often encoding within words, north-
ern routes and freedom, such as "Follow the Drinking
Gourd." Work songs, some sung on the chain gangs, are
all a part of the rich fabric of African American choral
music.
During their Ann Arbor appearance, some of those
spirituals will be reprised. The program includes "Swing
Low, Sweet Chariot,' "Wade inthe Water" and "Every
Time 1 Feel the Spirit." Two soloists will be featured dur-
ing the program. Marietta Simpson, a mezzo-soprano,
has sung under the baton of Kurt Masur, Sir Simon Rattle
and Charles Dutoit, performing with the Orchestras of

I

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