Madcap same-sex comedy

September 10, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Life isn't easy for Maggie. Bad enough that she works at a lesbian bookstore the authorities keep trying to close down. But she's just met the woman of her dreams -- on the same day her flighty mother and horny brother unexpectedly movie in.

So Maggie is forced into a desperate juggling act, working hard to keep the bookstore open and her newfound relationship growing, while trying to keep everything hidden from her chocoholic mom, who's strung way too tight to handle the news that her daughter's not interested in finding Mr. Right.

The disparate strands of Maggie's frenetic life come together in "Better Than Chocolate," an engagingly madcap look at sexual identities and the lengths we'll go to maintain them, from Canadian director Anne Wheeler and screenwriter Peggy Thompson.

Horrified by the news that her mom's idea of striking out on her own is moving in with her daughter, Maggie (baby-faced Karyn Dwyer) scrambles to chisel out a normal life for herself as quickly as possible.

She sublets an apartment (from a safe-sex instructor whose notion of interior decor is shelves filled with what one would euphemistically call marital aids), warns her friends that mom is a little on the strait-laced side and does her best to revert back to the daughter mom knew.

But Cupid's arrow doesn't know from timing, which explains the arrival of Kim (Christina Cox), a free-spirited artist who shows up in a van one day and promptly takes possession of Maggie's heart.

OK, Maggie can handle this; surely, mom will believe that she and Kim are just roomies. And, thankfully, mom (Wendy Crewson, overdoing the flighty stuff just a bit) shows up in such a neurotic and self-obsessed state that she barely notices that things seem a little off-center. She doesn't even realize that Maggie's friend Judy (Peter Outerbridge), who seems such a stabilizing influence on everyone, sports a considerable 5 o'clock shadow at the end of each day.

As long as mom doesn't find that box of interior decor Maggie's hidden under the bed

Perhaps the best thing about "Better Than Chocolate" is that it works as a comedy of characters, not of morals. If there's such a thing as a screwball same-sex comedy, this is it.

`Better Than Chocolate'

Starring Karyn Dwyer, Christina Cox and Wendy Crewson

Directed by Anne Wheeler

Released by Trimark Pictures

Rating: Unrated (sexuality)

Running time: 103 minutes

Sun score: ***

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