Monday, October 15, 2007

Hunting and Gathering (Ensemble, C'est Tout)

Not Another Kitchen!

It's Audrey Tautou, and ever since Amelie, I am of the opinion that Singaporeans have an affinity for the pint sized actress, and her box office draw here is fairly strong. Count me in as one of the fans who will lap up her cinematic outings, good or bad, so long as our heroine gets the opportunity to shine on screen.

Hunting and Gathering is based on a novel by Anna Gavalda, and tells the story of four individuals whose lives converge in an apartment. In this movie directed by Claude Berri, I thought that it was split into 3 acts, with story arcs focused on the challenges faced by each of the characters. Tautou stars as Camille Fauque, a near anorexic surface engineer who smokes a lot, guzzles alcohol, but eats very little. Living alone in a small attic of an apartment block, she meets Philibert (Laurent Stocker), a fellow neighbour who suffers from bouts of anxiety. Philibert's housemate Franck (Guillaume Canet) is a chef who lives hard and fast, whose only worry is the welfare of his grandmother Paulette (Francoise Bertin), a senior citizen who fears being tossed aside by kin, and makes life quite difficult for her caretakers.

The narrative is quite plain actually, with every conceivable development being very predictable. That means no quirky twists and turns for the sake of it, and it actually allows you to shift to lower gears to enjoy this outing. It's a story about having dreams, fulfilling them, and helping others to fulfill theirs too, through encouragement and support rendered. Having all four characters together under one roof, though brief it might be, did seem like an episode of Friends gone all French and all whacked with the age grouping, and proving correct the adage that two's a company and three's a crowd.

It did try to cover a lot of ground given that there are a number of characters here, but it did so at the expense of depth. The romance entanglements between characters did seem rather superficial, bland, trivial and predictable, while Philibert's quest to stem out his stammering through stage acting unfortunately had to take the backseat, and thus having his character fade away somewhat for the last act of the movie. The most meaningful and beautiful arc here belongs to Francoise Bertin's Paulette, as her tale of fear of abandonment rings through very honestly, and somehow, you'll start to wonder when you're of old age, whether you will have companions whom you can get along with, or be forgotten and tossed to some old folks' home to spend your twilight years in. I felt that it was superiorly poignant, without which there would be no emotional anchor for this movie.

Somehow, movies that feature food and classy restaurants (Ratatouille, Mostly Martha and its remake No Reservations anyone?) of late that I've watched always have fallen into the cliched ending. I'm unsure if it's an unwritten rule to have it done so, or if it's a formula that has proven to work every time. But in all earnestness, I thought it ended quite nicely with that happily ever after feel. In summary, definitely worth a watch for the eye candy cast, but it plays like a generic romantic / friendship tale that possesses potential that was hardly scratched.

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