Karen Dwyer, Christina Cox. Touching and humorous story of two women in love and their life struggles together. 1999/color/102 min/R/fullscreen.
Many lesbian movies are long on charm and short on production values; Better Than Chocolate
has a solid dose of both and steamy sex scenes to boot. Our heroine Maggie (Karyn Dwyer), a clerk at a lesbian bookstore, meets footloose butch Kim (Christina Cox) and, after Kim's van is towed away, they move in together. Unfortunately for their romantic bliss, Maggie's mother, Lila (Wendy Crewson), and teenage brother move in that very evening thanks to Lila's impending divorce. But what really complicates matters is that Maggie can't bring herself to come out to her mother; even when she tries, Lila steamrolls through the conversation, like she knows what's coming and doesn't want to hear it. Interwoven with this is the struggle of Judy (Peter Outerbridge), a male-to-female transsexual who's in love with the bookstore's owner, Frances (Ann-Marie MacDonald), who's freaking out because customs officers are holding a list of books at the border that they claim are obscene. The overlapping plots are deftly juggled, the personal and political are compellingly interwoven, and, most satisfying of all, the characters have problems that aren't going to be easily resolved. A handful of candy-colored lip-synching musical numbers give the movie some flash and the sex scenes give the movie some heat, but it's the elements of sorrow and ambiguity that really make the joy in Better Than Chocolate
something to savor. --Bret Fetzer