Better Than Chocolate (1999)
For our last day of our Gay Writes Reviews celebrating National Coming Out Day and the It Gets Better Project, we wanted to do another GLBT film. This one streamed on Netflix and looked cute. It was, in fact, delightful and enchanting and a lot of fun. Totally recommended!
Maggie is 19, sleeping on the couch of her job at a bookstore, has just dropped out of college, and is trying to figure life out. She gets a phone call from her mother, Layla, and lies about the large apartment she isn’t living in. As a result, her mother invites herself to come and visit, with Maggie’s brother, as a way to escape her own impending divorce. Magically, Maggie finds an apartment to sublet and a girlfriend, gorgeous Kim, all at the same time, just before her mother and brother arrive.
The story details the romance of Maggie and Kim, Maggie’s struggles to come out to her oblivious mother, and Layla’s own attempt to find herself. There is a secondary romance between Judy, a trans-woman, and Francis, the owner of the bookstore Maggie works for, as well as a storyline about censorship and homophobia that ties all the threads together in the end.
It’s a coming of age story, a coming out story, a finding your strength and your power story. It’s smart and sexy and funny. The leads are beautiful — all of them, but especially the actresses that play Maggie and Kim — and I love the Canadian setting that plays into the censorship storyline (books are confiscated at the border for being obscene. As Francis says, “They’re obscene! That’s the point!”).
Sometimes there’s a little awkwardness in the acting and in the pacing of some scenes. The ending is a little too over-the-top for such an otherwise understated film, but the film itself and the actors manage to pull it off. The body painting scene (Kim is an artist) is hot, as is the bathroom sex scene (more implied than explicitly shown). The discrimination Judy has to endure from lesbians and homophobes alike is heartbreaking, but she comes into her own and finds her own power in helping Layla find hers. Sometimes I wanted to shake Maggie and tell her to tell her mother already, but overall, it was a delightful, charming film that I’d watch again in a heartbeat.
Happy endings all around, a great message of tolerance and openness for people and governments alike, and a smile on my face when it was done. Can’t ask for much more than that.