Chocolat by Joanne Harris and the 2000 movie Chocolat staring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp tell two similar, but different stories. Like a few of the other books and movies I've talked about, I really liked both versions in their own way.
The movie really took the ideas of the book and changed not only many character's personalities and stories, but also changed the basic theme of the story from Harris's original writings in many ways.
I'll do my best to not reveal too many spoilers, but to talk about the differences, I'm going to have to touch on a few details revealed in the book and movie.
Vianne, the protagonist, is given two different backgrounds which explain her actions in very different ways. In the book, Vianne is raised in a pagan environment, and they move around often in order to avoid criticism by the church. It's also possible that Vianne's mother had stolen her from another woman, and that caused their constant traveling. In the movie, however, a romantic story about her grandmother and grandfather being travelers, and chocolate, to explain Vianne and her daughters travel as a romantic, hereditary urge.
In the book and movie, the same characters are present, but they have very different personalities. The priest, the main antagonist in the book, instead becomes the puppet of the mayor, the main antagonist of the movie. Even Vianne herself becomes a bit of a weaker character, as opposed to the strong, opinionated character in the book.
Another huge change was the time period--the novel is set probably in the early 1990s, and the town is stuck in the past, whereas Vianne is a traveler bringing modernity, in some ways, to them. The movie is very clearly set in the 1950s of 1960s; the town's residents are still dealing with the World Wars and learning about Elvis.
The last, and biggest, change I want to talk about is the thematic change. The book is really a challenge of spirituality versus Christianity, which comes up in Vianne's disagreements with the town's Christian ways and stuffy priest. She was raised a witch, reads tarot cards, and very clearly pagan. In the movie, a hint of Vianne's 'magic' is present, and her disagreements have more to do with her being a chocolatier during Lent as opposed to her being a pagan in a strict, Christian town. Really, while the spirit of magic still remains, it is only passed over, whereas the book really centers around this.
Like I said, I really enjoyed both the book and the movie, but they are different stories. They have the same characters and are (sort-of) set in the same place, but the resulting message is totally different, and so I'm going to have to suggest you both read the book and watch the movie!
Check out the movie trailer and book cover above!