DVD REVIEW: CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: STUART SIMPSON / SCREENPLAY: ADDISON HEATH / STARRING: GLENN MAYNARD, KYRIE CAPRI, ASTON ELLIOT, LOUISE BREMNER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
When Warren (Maynard) accidently runs over his cat it seems he has lost his only true friend in the entire world. This guiltily comedic and deeply unfortunate act forms the catalyst that sends the already desperate and tragically lonely life of this socially awkward ice cream vender tumbling out of control. For Warren, the daily routine of peddling frozen desserts to a generally unappreciative clientele and obsessing over Katey George (Capri), the star of his favourite television soap opera, is now all that remains to fill his time. So when within days of the feline’s funeral an aggressive local pimp begins to confront and threaten poor Warren, something was bound to give. And give it does. Brutally.
Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is a wickedly churned blend of genre references, with a pinch of Taxi Driver and Forrest Gump thrown in for extra flavouring. Any attempt to accurately classify this independent Australian production would more than likely fail; it isn’t a horror but certainly contains horrific moments. Neither is it a comedy as while there is some of the blackest humour you will see, you’re more likely to try and stifle a chuckle than to laugh out loud. Warren is also very complex and the film successfully treads a fine line with his character, portraying him somewhere in a Venn diagram crossover of having learning difficulties and being a sociopath. Certainly his daily post-dinner activities of masturbating to episodes of fictional soap Around the Block are given a slightly more sinister edge with evidence of a barely-controlled, aggressive side to his nature that becomes more prevalent as the film goes on.
The greatest strength however of Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla also happens to be its weakness. Maynard’s central performance is so incessantly creepy, so malevolently sweet, varying effortlessly between sympathetic and unsympathetic, sometimes within a single line of dialogue, that it emphasises failings in the supporting cast. Without exception they are all stereotypical ciphers and while some of this may be intentional, offering a view of weary, sigh-inducing despair for today’s society, it all feels a little forced and insincere.
That said, this is a fascinatingly-dark little film that lingers in the memory long after the final scenes. There is a quirky, understated madness to the whole thing that is both brave and refreshing, and despite the graphic nature of the some of the scenes still seems to retain a certain wholesome quality. You may ultimately feel empathy with Warren, perhaps even some reluctant understanding. One thing is for certain though, you probably wouldn’t want to know him and you definitely wouldn’t want to try his ice cream.
Special Features: Feature with commentary / Cast and crew interviews / Deleted scenes / Trailers / Short film "Baby Did a Bat Bat Thing"
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