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Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Better Than Chocolate

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 1999 at 12:00 AM

The unabashed romanticism that used to be a staple of Hollywood films has all but disappeared, replaced by the neurotic couplings of self-absorbed yuppies. But the thrill of love at first sight, along with the exquisite torture of unrequited love, lives on in gay and lesbian romantic comedies.

Better Than Chocolate shares the same serious but breezy tone and candy-colored palette of Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss. Set in an impossibly beautiful Vancouver, this is an unapologetically female story where boys truly are on the side.

Nineteen-year-old college dropout Maggie (Karyn Dwyer) works at a lesbian bookstore/sex-positive shop run by Frances (playwright-author Ann-Marie MacDonald) when two life-altering events happen: She falls head over heels for painter Kim (Christina Cox); and her newly separated mother, Lila (Wendy Crewson), arrives on her doorstep.

There’s more than a little 1970s-style consciousness raising in Peggy Thomson’s script as career homemaker Lila reinvents herself with the aid of Judy, the only other person who shares her views of femininity. Except in this version, Judy (Peter Outerbridge) used to be Jeremy, and sings at a nightclub of her fragile "transgender heart."

The enemies of these proudly out women are cartoonish (priggish customs officials, suspenders-wearing skinheads) and ultimately irrelevant. Director Anne Wheeler (Bye Bye Blues) has created a fusion of a womyn’s film with an old-fashioned women’s picture and – as Sarah McLachlan sings "your love is better than chocolate" – she re-creates the blissful Hollywood happy ending for a new era.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at letters@metrotimes.com.

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