That this film garnered five Oscar nominations - including Best Picture - says more about Miramax's aggressive marketing campaign than it does the film's quality. Forgettably slight, this shallow tale of a free-thinking woman who invades a small French town in 1959 with her addictive chocolate recipes, and upsets the town's frumpy powers-that-be, is a predictable and pointless bore.

Miramax is showing its age; this is no longer the studio that once championed challenging filmmakers like Peter Greenaway and Steven Soderbergh. These days, if a Miramax film doesn't star Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, or Gwyneth Paltrow (think I'm kidding? Look at Bounce, Shakespeare in Love, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Emma, All the Pretty Horses, Good Will Hunting, etc.) then it better have a take-no-chances combination of art house cast and feel-good storyline.

They played it extra safe this time by hiring Juliette Binoche (an Oscar winner for Miramax's The English Patient), Judi Dench (an Oscar winner for Miramax's Shakespeare in Love), director Lasse Hallström (an Oscar nominee for Miramax's The Cider House Rules), composer Rachel Portman (an Oscar winner for Miramax's Emma)... You get the idea.

An altogether fine cast, in fact, does their best with this vacuous material. But who cares? There isn't an honest emotion or smidgen of personal integrity in this cozy lovefest. Not much story either. Even the cinematography bugged me. The shade of blue used for Binoche's chocolaterie (which is seen throughout the film) was sickening.

It sounds like I hated this film, but I didn't quite; it provides some facile entertainment for two hours. And it's hard to dislike that cast, especially Hugh O'Conor as the nervous young village priest and the chameleon-like Alfred Molina as the repressed mayor. But I hate what it represents in the art house market. And I hate that countless films got passed over in the Best Picture category by this charmless bit of hack work.