Lesbian film: Better Than Chocolate (1999)

This is a complicated film to review. I think it belongs in the list of Best Lesbian Films, but I know the audience I’m writing for here and this is an audience that will not appreciate the trans woman character in the film. So I’m gonna call it a good film that comes with a small warning.

This is a good film because it was created by women for a lesbian audience, and it portrays lesbians in a positive light. It’s also Canadian, which is cool! 🙂

Better Than Chocolate is a line from the song “Ice Cream” by Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan. “Your love is better than chocolate/ better than anything else that I’ve tried.” It’s a sweet and adorable song that sets the tone of the film which is about two women falling in love.

Maggie is a university drop-out who is working in an independent bookstore that is modeled after a real Vancouver bookstore called Little Sister’s. She meets Kim, an artist who travels around in a hippy-style van. They begin dating and fall in love. Meanwhile, Maggie’s mother and brother come to live with her because her parents have divorced and they need somewhere to stay. Her mother doesn’t know she is gay and is unable to guess even though Maggie and Kim are obviously a couple.

One of the themes in the film is art, and some cool art is created as a part of the story. For example, the two women paint each other’s naked bodies and roll on large pieces of paper to create a large body paint art piece. Another of the themes is censorship. The real bookstore Little Sisters was always having trouble with having their books seized by customs because they were considered “obscene” for having homosexual subject matter. The Canadian writer Ann-Marie MacDonald, who is a lesbian, (and also a genius) has an acting part in the film. It’s really cool to see MacDonald, a real Canadian lesbian writer, complain about the censorship of lesbian books in Canada. One of my favourite lines in the film is when she says “Of course it’s obscene—that’s the point!”

There are some cute references to lesbian culture in the film. For example, when they are causing trouble at the custom’s office and the security guard comes in, the guard turns out to be a lesbian. The two women recognize each other and say “I haven’t seen you since the womyn’s music festival!” I adore that moment!

The thing that my readers might not be comfortable with is the trans woman character. He is a friend of theirs and they insist he is a woman the whole time. It always weirds me out when lesbians insist that men are women. Like, come on, you know you wouldn’t sleep with him! At one point there is a transgender bathroom scene. Judy, the trans woman, uses the women’s washroom and a woman attacks him by hitting him with her purse and yelling that he doesn’t belong there while he cowers underneath her and cries. It demonstrates how trans women are the innocent victims of women’s bigotry. Now that I’ve read all that I’ve read about autogynephiles and how they behave I don’t believe for a second that this is how it really works. In real life a six foot tall male doesn’t cower underneath a woman and wait patiently while she hits him with her purse.

Aside from a bit of transgenderist propaganda, it’s a really good film. There is good chemistry between the main characters, some lovely romance, awesome art, good music, conflicts that get resolved, and no one dies or goes crazy at the end. I always feel warm and fuzzy at the end. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Lesbian film: Better Than Chocolate (1999)

  1. The whole subplot about the M-T guy pissed me off when the movie came out too. Also because no woman would attack a man in the bathroom the way that woman went after him. We don’t do that. We might say something, we might look sideways at him, but actually hitting? I don’t believe it, unless in self – defense. Also i was very disappointed (spoiler alert!) about Ann Marie Macdonald’s character’s attraction to this dude. There was a lot about that movie I enjoyed, but the pandering to the men in that way, with no feminist analysis bugged me. It would be fine with me to have a trans character in a lesbian movie, but everything about his character and the others’ relations towards him was totally unreflective and superficial….mind you, the whole movie was pretty fluffy. I remember being disappointed then.

    However! I am enjoying your reviews, PS, and very happy to have some more lesbian movies to watch. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

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