In fear I hurried this way and that.
I had the taste of blood and chocolate in my mouth,
the one as hateful as the other.
- Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf)
I'm not sure what the Hesse quote has to do with the story, never having read the novel this film is based upon. My understanding is, the tween-popular paranormal romance book was named so for the young heroine's discovery of lust (the blood is partially for her menses, partially for her gory werewolf heritage; and the chocolate mirrors her cravings for the sugary treat, and imagined sex with her boyfriend). She never does do the deed in the book (remember, it's YA fantasy), but she thinks about it a lot.
I know that much about Annette Curtis Klause's novel, but the film is a bit different. Viv (Agnes Bruckner) is still a she-wolf, but now the blood is about her 'turning' whenever she cuts herself and the chocolate connotes the sweet shoppe where she works.
The film definitely keeps the romance center stage, and the horror second — think: a neutered Underworld without the vampires, action, and heavy CGI. Viv is 19 in the movie, and she does horizontal wolf-wiggle … but it's blandly unsexy. (Again, I haven't read the novel, but the reviews often cite how sensual and erotically suspenseful it is.)
Unfortunately for me, Blood and Chocolate goes for the standard romance movie angle. It's even got the dreaded "falling in love" musical montage as the star-crossed couple falls for one another (which comes in barely a notch above my contempt for the obligatory "shopping spree" musical montage you see in nearly every chick flick). Yep, they're opposites: Viv's object of affection is a puny human, Aiden (Hugh Dancy), and this cannot be tolerated by her furry family. Romantic angst, arty slo-mo camera moves, and chase scenes ensue.
The smoldering French actor Olivier Martinez plays Gabriel, the leader of the pack. He's got glowing eyes for Viv, and plans on taking her for his mate. Also after Aiden's skin is Viv's whiney cousin, Rafe (Bryan Dick), who, while he's just as careless about protecting the pack's identity as Viv is, doesn't like this interspecies entanglement one bit. For most of the film Aiden, even though he's writing a book on werewolves, has no idea what Viv and her clan really are.
There were a few things I liked about Blood and Chocolate: the transformation from human to wolf was presented in a supernatural way, rather than physical. There are some spiritual themes in the movie as far as making the leap from person-to-creature one of "faith" rather than something that happens against their wills. I also thought the actors were quite good. Dick is a bit over the top (if he had a mustache, he probably would have twisted it), but it works for the character. Fans of Bruckner and Dancy won't be disappointed, and neither will Martinez's (but he isn't in the movie as much as some might hope). The authentic Bucharest locations are gorgeous, and the film makes the most of its visuals.
If you're interested in a coming-of-age werewolf metaphor movie about how our hormones make us howl, I'd suggest renting DVDs of The Company of Wolves and Ginger Snaps. If, however, you don't mind a bit of lackluster, schmaltzy romance between your fanged bites and bristled hackles, then Blood and Chocolate just might satisfy your craving.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson