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Friday, November 30, 2012 - Page updated at 02:30 p.m.

Mushroom pickers grow apart in slow-brewed ‘Now, Forager’

By NICOLAS RAPOLD
The New York Times

Happy endings may not be an option when fine cuisine is the goal, at least according to the mushroom-picking couple in “Now, Forager.” Directed by Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin, this uneven, slow-brewed film begins by observing a brittle relationship about to crumble, but it is better at portraying how the exacting standards of food professionals can lead to personal grief.

The couple, Lucien and Regina, are New Yorkers who eke out a living on the rural fungus-gathering circuit, toting their finds door to door to city restaurants. Lucien (Cortlund) is the harder case, dismissive of his girlfriend and willing to give up their apartment to keep up the good fight; Regina (Tiffany Esteb) is tiring of their rut and has the sense to pursue openings at restaurants.

Perfectionism, tinged with snobbery, undermines their attempts at employment: Lucien seethes at the annoying hostess during a catering gig; Regina quixotically revives classical dishes at a Basque comfort-food restaurant. The story separates the two of them, then lets their romance fade away in favor of their daily grind, food-prep shots and ponderous fungal montages.

Like the two characters, the film has trouble finding purchase, which yields a more acute feeling of dissatisfaction than was probably intended.