Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Stuart Simpson
Cast: Glenn Maynard, Kyrie Capri, Aston Elliot
A heartbreaking tale of infinite loneliness and morbid obsession, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is one of the greatest films to land here in the states in 2016. The film hit the foreign market a few years back before quietly sneaking onto VOD outlets and subsequently getting a DVD release on American soil just last month. It proved to be an arrival I’m quite grateful for, as the flick is just captivating on so many levels.
First, let’s just get the idea of the film highlighted and out of the way. And to do so, I’m not going to launch into a detailed assessment, complete with spoilers. No, in this instance I’m just going to share the imdb.com synopsis and assure you that the less you know about the film, the better. There are truly shocking moments waiting to steal the breath from viewers, and I won’t be spoiling those moments.
Awkward, lonely ice-cream truck driver Warren Thompson has two major problems: an unhealthy obsession with a soap opera actress, and a gang of bullies who like to savagely beat him on a regular basis. As Warren slowly slips out of reality and into a psychotic fantasy world to escape his miserable life, a darker, deadlier Warren emerges to deal with his problems and put an end to his tormentors.
Warren undergoes hell. This guy has been bullied his entire existence, and his gig as an Ice Cream salesman doesn’t do much to strengthen his position in society. He’s still being bullied while in his ice cream truck, and he’s still spending the bulk of his days fantasizing about his favorite actress, Katey George. But things change when Katie – who’s filming at a nearby location – swings by Warren’s ice cream truck for a refreshing cone in the summer heat. That’s the moment in which things get weird, because we’re not entirely sure if Warren is actually experiencing these meetings, or if he’s living them in his mind. That question will ultimately be answered in the picture’s final moments.
Throughout the film we see an interesting parallel story unfold. Given its position as a subplot it isn’t remotely near as pronounced as the remainder of the film, but it’s a crucial piece of the story all the same. And it’s a sad piece, for Warren has what he’s looking (companionship and an end to the loneliness) for right in front of him in the form of a local store clerk who clearly finds Warren appealing. She practically swoons over the man, hoping for what she’s missing in life, all the while this fact flies right over Warren’s head, as he’s busy obsessing over Katey so much he can’t see that there’s a decent local woman who wants him, and she’s in honest reach. He could have this woman, if he were to want to, but he doesn’t.
As Warren’s life slowly spirals out of control, so does the life of the store clerk, who turns to substance abuse to mute the rejection she’s been dealing with. And director Stuart Simpson doesn’t leave us with unanswered questions about this woman. In the fading moments of the film we see that her life, like Warren’s, has hit rock bottom.
As much as I’d love to disclose a number of spoilers, I’ll refrain, and I’ll also implore you to seek out the film. Lead man Glenn Maynard turns in what has to be one of the three or four best performances I’ve ever seen. This guy is up there rivaling Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, Al Pacino as Tony Montana, Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher. Maynard is a genuine genius, so convincing in his work that American audiences won’t have the slightest clue of what this performer is about. Who is he? How does he typically perform? He’s such a chameleon in this film that it completely blows the mind.
The black comedy of the film hits hard, but it’s often forgotten rather quickly, as the sorrow experienced by Warren brings us crashing down to reality time and again. But that’s part of what makes this film so amazing. If you can imagine an emotion, you can see it in this film. Between director Simpson and lead Maynard, the film sports a mystique that we don’t spot on a daily basis. To be as direct as I can, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is one of the most engaging films ever made.