Hunting and Gathering…and Yawning

Am I condemned to never again see a film that’s worth seeing? Following the disappointment of “Twice Upon a Time”,” I was longing to see a film that would redeem the movie industry. The reviews were encouraging about this French ensemble comedy/drama/whatever, and having been involved with films in the past, I still have a soft spot for the medium.

“Hunting and Gathering”, which is based on a novel by Anna Gavalda, is not very enjoyable in spite of some good performances from the actors, Audrey Tatou (of “Amélie” fame) as Camille, Guillaume Canet as Franck and Laurent Stocker as Philibert. The three actors do the best they can with a slow development and predictable plot.

The story is simple. Three people are forced to share an apartment in France and thus become involved in an ensemble scenario. The location does not figure at all and one gets the impression that the film could have been set anywhere in the world. In fact, it seems more like a stage play with interior scenes throughout.

In the beginning of the story, Franck can’t stand Camille. He has lots of psychological problems and resents her intrusion into his life. Then they begin to love each other. Now there’s an original twist straight out of Mills and Boon. But then the “romance” fizzles out somewhat when Franck’s problems with his sick grandmother begin to take over.

As for Philibert, he reminds me of a much more likeable version of Jack Nicholson’s compulsive character in “As Good as it Gets.” In fact he is so nice that he’s almost unbelievable. Phil has a stutter which is restricting his ambition to be an actor. But then it would, wouldn’t it?

Phil meets a girl, falls for her and she persuades him to come to her acting school. So he’s on the way to being rescued. Franck, on the other hand, is the least affable of the characters. He’s one of those mean chefs that we see too often on television cooking shows. From what we can gather he was abandoned as a child but still resents having to visit his ailing grandmother who is sadly a bit of a pain in the neck.

As for the sweet but very insecure Camille, we are soon introduced to her problem which seems to be her miserable mother. Mother is depressed, apparently, and picks on her daughter for being an office cleaner or “surface engineer” as Camille describes it.

So the plot drags along slowly until its predictable ending of “all’s well that ends well” and one leaves the theatre wondering why every character has issues with parents, dead or alive. I suspect it reflects the personal angst of the original novel’s author, who is a columnist for Elle magazine.

Reminds me of the story of a woman boasting to her friend that her son adores her. “He’s so devoted to me,” she says “that he goes to a doctor every week just to talk about me!”

There’s nothing new under the sun.

If there is a bright spot in this film it’s the outstanding performance by Laurent Stocker from The Comédie Française. Now, he is amazing and I kept on thinking that he must be someone special. As it turns out he is since he belongs to the illustrious academy which is the French equivalent of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The film is somewhat dour in parts especially when the grandmother complains about being old and infirm. It’s a real downer to be reminded of the fate which awaits us all.

I found it difficult to enjoy “Hunting and Gathering” because it seems to have a problem with identity. It isn’t quite funny enough to be a comedy; it is only slightly romantic and most of the time it’s pretty depressing. Even the ending fails to uplift. By that time I no longer cared whether the characters found happiness or not.

The title of the film is puzzling. Its French title is the same as the original novel, “Ensemble, C’est Tout”, which makes a bit more sense since it refers to being together and together the three friends find consolation.

As for me, I live in dwindling hope of one fine day seeing a really entertaining movie that will make me feel I did not waste precious time.


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