Now, Forager

Now, Forager

*

Reviewed by: Neil Mitchell

Replete with the tag-line 'A Film About Love and Fungi', Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin's Now, Forager, sets out to champion the growing Slow Food movement, offer a realistic view of the restaurant trade and share their love of the many varieties of mushroom. It's an oddly intriguing premise, even by the generally offbeat standards of American indies, but it's one that falls as flat as a proverbial pancake. Touted as a movie for 'foodies' everywhere, the target demographic may well be bemused and disappointed by Cortlund and Halperin's offering. Rather than focus on the joys of traditional, natural cooking (surely the movie's raison d'etre?) Now, Forager develops into a navel gazing exercise in frustrated aspirations, with the faltering relationship at the heart of the tale doing nothing to engage the viewer.

Evoking the sparse, unhurried cinema of Kelly Reichardt (but with none of the emotional weight or directorial prowess) Now, Forager tells the glum tale of the marriage breakdown of foragers Lucien (Cortlund) and Regina (Tiffany Esteb), Basque-Americans with a keen sense of food traditions. Scouring the woodlands of New Jersey for the panoply of edible fungi to sell to local restauranteurs, the couple are at odds over their future plans.

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Taciturn Lucien is keen to continue the couple's hand-to-mouth existence while the more realistic Regina wants to take a regular paid job to offer them more stability. Lingering shots of the bewildering range of fungi are accompanied by a voice-over as Lucien describes in loving, academic detail the tastes, best cooking methods and visual distinctions of the riches on offer. It's an educational ploy clearly designed to engender the same fascination in the viewer as it does in the characters (and by extension the film-makers), and it works. These sections of Now, Forager are a microcosmic insight into the natural world as a whole; one small, easily available section of a gigantic universe at our fingertips.

The problem with the movie in which the scenes of foraging are inserted into is that Lucien is so deeply unlikable, with Regina being only marginally more genial. I'm not sure if Cortlund imagines Lucien as being some sort of romantic drifter rejecting the conventions of 'normal' society, but he comes across as a pretentious man-child with next to no social skills. Why on Earth Cortlund and Halperin thought the best way to raise interest in the Slow Food movement was by creating such a miserable, woe-is-me character is beyond me.

Regina fares slightly better, displaying a more mature acceptance of the travails of trying to marry aspiration with economic survival, but her character isn't invested with any real warmth or endearing qualities. As they drift apart, Regina taking a kitchen position in the restaurant of a trust-fund enabled twenty-something and Lucien heading off south to forage, the couple's experiences do little to raise their individual spirits, or this particular viewer's interest. Regina's disastrous attempts to transform a mom-and-pop restaurant with a traditional Basque-infused tapas menu and Lucien's equally unsuccessful job providing the catering for a rich, influential DC couple provide little other than a sneering view of of the have-nots and the have-it-alls.

The lesson learnt by Lucien as Now, Forager drifts to its uneventful anti-climax appears to be that acting like a stubborn idiot will cost you your marriage. Well who knew? I struggle to see how the movie will appeal to 'foodies' let alone those for who food is a run-of-the-mill necessity, especially with such unsympathetic leads as our eyes and ears. Cortlund and Halpern's film may have been borne out of a genuine interest in food and film, but Now, Forager does nothing memorable for either. Some human sweetness and dramatic spice would have been a very welcome addition to a dish that leaves something of a bitter aftertaste.

Reviewed on: 01 Dec 2012
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A foraging couple's relationship unravels under differing expectations.

Director: Jason Cortlund, Julia Halperin

Writer: Jason Cortlund

Starring: Jason Cortlund, Tiffany Esteb, Almex Lee, Gabrielle Maisels

Year: 2012

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: US, Poland


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