Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla Reviews
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is far from what I was expecting from a Monster Pictures film. For the majority of the feature, it is far from anything synonymous with horror. In fact, most of the film is a dark comedy-drama about a somewhat developmentally disabled man who works as an ice cream salesman. The horror does not actually enter the themes of the film until its ending, so if the viewer is to focus solely on what Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla offers as a horror film then disappointment is perhaps a certainty.
The intro to Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla sets up a film that has the potential for great character ambition. The main character Warren Thompson is seen rising out of bed and getting ready for work in his house alone, only to run over his cat Oscar as he attempts to back out of the driveway. With a combination of Glenn Maynard's quick ability to channel real emotion, the beauty of the musical score and director Stuart Simpson's knowledge on how to wring the emotions in viewers, the power of this is undeniable. The scene is followed by a tearful goodbye from Warren to Oscar where we immediately see into the vulnerabilities of the character and the extent of talent in Glenn Maynard's charisma. I had no expectation to get so immediately emotionally enticed by Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, but I was brought to tears very fast by the power of the film which came as a great surprise.
Frankly, there is a brilliant level of unprecedented character depth in Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla which proves to be the main staple of the entire film. Warren Thompson is a character very much trapped in the past. Watching on an obsolete television set with recorded videotapes of his the series sitting on standby while obsessing over his love for one of the characters, the world around Warren is simply one which has left him on the road to nowhere. What's saddest is the fact that once his cat Oscar dies, he continues to put out food for him as a means of pretending that Oscar is still alive. This, among many other things, proves to grasp the sympathies of viewers and entice them in the film. Addison Heath's screenplay offers a straightforward story which Stuart Simpson directs with enough passion to bring out the best in his lead actor, and the entire experience is so rich in atmosphere that I completely lost sight of how small the narrative scope is. Looking back on it, I realize that Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla occurred within the context of few settings with enough material to cleverly work its way around the extremely low budget of the production, though this did not stand in the way of the film's technical achievements as the cinematography is very atmospheric while the musical score perfectly captures the mood of the film at all times, whether it be lighthearted, saddening or hard hitting.
When Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla reaches its climax and it becomes clear why the feature was released by Monster Pictures. This is the point that more or less turns Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla into a low-budget Australian version of the Martin Scorsese classic Taxi Driver (1976), only with an ice cream man instead of a taxi driver. Warren's obsession with his favourite celebrity is also clearly influenced by Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1982). Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is essentially Stuart Simpson's Australian love letter to Martin Scorsese. However, it also leaves the feature with a rather unsatisfactory conclusion to what everything has spent building up to.
There are some elements of Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla which can remind viewers of the production limitations through minor faults, but they are never enough to really damage the experience. One of these is the many subplots in the film and supporting characters which do not receive a sufficient resolution. This can be justified through describing these story elements as simple everyday occurrences which contribute to the progressively disenfranchised nature of the protagonist, but the climax does not sustain what the entire film has been building towards.
The final scene in Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla changes the genre of the film. After seeing Warren change out of his formerly friendly self, the film is over within minutes. In an aggressive climax, the film cuts between video diaries of Warren's past and the depiction of his contemporary experiences. The contrast between the two characters plays out against gentle music as the video diary depicts Warren discussing his identity. The problem in this is that between what Warren is doing at one point in time and saying in another, I have no idea what the message in this all is. The character has clearly suffered a mental breakdown, yet the film projects a rather optimistic tone about this all before the feature ends on a cliffhanger of confusion and tonal disruption. The simplicity of everything leading up to the final scene of Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is contrasted by the convoluted message of the film's ending, so I walked away from the film completely unsure of what to think of its ending.
The character Rocko is also very stereotypical with an overreliance on the power of swearing to anchor his character, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his endless use of the words removes the impact from it and the credible reality of the character. There are some laughs to be had in his heavily stereotypical persona, but all in all it can prove rather excessive in his brief bursts of time on screen.
It's the performance of Glenn Maynard that really ties everything together. The man is a relatively unknown actor, and after seeing his performance in Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla I cannot help but wonder why because he is a man of many talents. From the instant the film dives straight into the deep end of emotional drama, Glenn Maynard is the man who carries it due to his instinctive skill in the dramatic arts. He instantly brings all his spirit into the part and grasps the vulnerable edge of his character with tenacious magnificence, able to instantly cry out in sadness or anger any time the story calls upon him to do it. Glenn Maynard captures the developmental disabilities of Warren Thompson through the movements in his eyes, his limp and the tone of his voice while he speaks the words with a true passion for what they mean to the character. And when he has to interact with surrounding characters, he can project passionate glee for anyone he is happy to see or progressively channel fear to feed an intense atmosphere. No matter what the material requires, Glenn Maynard fearlessly aims straight for the heart of his character and pushes it straight into the scene, and the entire film is a massive testament to his charismatic ability to hold the screen.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla's dedication to character brings out the brilliant talents of Glenn Maynard and the tenaciously atmospheric direction of Stuart Simpson which makes it a rich emotional experience, even if its climax is ultimately too brief and confusing to live up to the preceding narrative.