2013 / Director. Stuart Simpson.
Every review you're going to read about CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA is going to draw comparisons to TAXI DRIVER.... and while that's a flattering sentiment, it's not entirely fair because the only parallel is the overall character arch. So I wont compare the two - oh wait...
It's also tricky for me to convince you that I have seen this film without bias. I've made no secret that I love Stuart Simpson's work and I'm one of many who tout him as the next big thing. Having said that, I write it as I see it and CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA is quite possibly my favourite film of the year - regardless of it's director. It's the story of Warren, a meek and mild-mannered Mr Whippy driver. Life hasn't been kind to him and when his all time favourite tv-soap starlet visits his van, things begin to look up. Showing him a kindness he hasn't known before but so desperately yearned for, she ignites a passion within him. Some people might say it's an obsession, but I didn't read it that way. The film was written by Addison Heath and his script is surprisingly poignant. I don't know if this story was personal to him or whether he simply tapped into a passion for dark comedy but CSV has been written by someone who ought to be established and lauded. The fact that he's in his mid 20s is absurd! The film itself looks incredible and is a huge departure from Simpson's previous two films. Where Demons|Among|Us and El Monstro Del Mar were hard-edged explorations of carnage and depravity, CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA is sincere and heartfelt and while I'm convinced that Simpson is an indie genius and that Heath's talent with words is irrefutable, the film would be nothing without the incredible performance of Glenn Maynard. When he appears for the first time at the opening of the film I was concerned that it was going to be a hammed up caricature performance but within only a few minutes he reaches in and tears your heart out. This isn't good acting, it's great acting. From a child-like innocence and naivety to a self-destructive descent into madness and every emotion in between, Maynard comes across as a man possessed - he's that good. The film looks amazing too. It's controlled and deliberate and as a viewer I trusted that the journey I was on was worth the ride. This ISN'T a Taxi Driver knock-off. This isn't a social commentary about the decline of society. It's a personal and introverted character study that will hopefully force some people to reflect upon their own actions in life.
I hate it when my enthusiasm and elation for films gets the better of me. Films like this evoke passion from me and I can't write about them without sounding fanatical - but so be it. My own personality is incredibly extroverted when filtered through a computer but in reality I am withdrawn and introverted. I understood the character of Warren and found the film moving. It certainly struck a chord and it's easily one of my favourites for the year, if not THE favourite.