The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2022 Review - PEPPERGRASS | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2022 Review - PEPPERGRASS

peppergrass film review
A pair of desperate restaurateurs attempt to steal rare truffles from a reclusive military veteran.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Steven Garbas, Chantelle Han

Starring: Chantelle Han, Charles Boyland, Michael Copeman, Craig Porritt, Philip Williams

peppergrass film poster

A year ago I hadn't given so much as a second thought to the truffle industry. Then came the Nicolas Cage vehicle Pig, which boasted the much-ridiculed actor's finest performance in decades. That movie takes us deep into the underworld of the restaurant business and the ruthlessness employed by some to get their hands on rare truffles. It seems we may have an emerging "truffle-thriller" sub-genre, as directors Steven Garbas and Chantelle Han's Peppergrass similarly portrays the deadly world of the truffle trade.

peppergrass film review

Co-director Han also takes the lead role of Eula, a pregnant restaurateur who like so many in the hospitality trade is struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic. The movie takes place during one of the more draconian lockdowns of the past couple of years, with all Canadian restaurants forced to close their doors and live on the scraps of takeout. As Eula tells fellow restaurateur and fuck buddy Morris (Charles Boyland), she's making just $40 a day.

Possible salvation for the pair comes when Eula's grandfather passes away and leaves his war medals to Eula to pass onto his old army buddy Reuben (Michael Copeman), who now lives as a hermit in the distant woods. Eula remembers how as a child her grandfather and Reuben would take her truffle hunting, and she plans to exchange her grandfather's medals for some of Reuben's much sought after white truffles. Her big mistake is enlisting the aid of volatile cokehead Morris, who packs a pistol and a Mexican wrestling mask for the trip. Red flags much?

peppergrass film review

Peppergrass plays like a reverse Deliverance, with the city slickers posing a threat to rural folk. COVID hasn't reached the patch of rural Canada where Reuben resides, and the few people Eula and Morris meet panic in their potentially contaminated presence. It also follows the tropes of classic hicksploitation movies and even has the classic scene where some old codger (Craig Porritt) warns them not to venture any further.

Garbas and Han take a commendable risk in presenting us with a pair of protagonists who are far from likeable. We might be able to get on board with Eula's deception due to her tough predicament, but Morris is such a broadly drawn obnoxious asshole that it's impossible for us to care about him when the pair eventually find themselves in trouble. There's also the small matter that the film posits Reuben as the villain when he hasn't actually done anything wrong beyond defending himself from a pair of intruders out to swindle him.

peppergrass film review

The first half of the movie, a sort of Truffles of Sierra Madre, leans knowingly into its genre tropes to create a sufficiently tense atmosphere. It's when the movie becomes a Revenant-esque survival thriller in the second half that the movie loses its energy. Left alone in the woods with Reuben potentially giving chase, Eula never seems to sufficiently struggle with the sort of hardships someone left to survive the freezing forests of Canada would presumably encounter. A forest is a troublesome setting for a chase thriller, as given the homogenous terrain, it's difficult for a director to establish the geographical distance between the hunter and the hunted. It's never made clear whether Reuben is 20 metres or 20 miles away from Eula, if he's even on her tail at all, and so there's little of the suspense you might expect from this sort of set-up.

 plays at Film Maudit 2.0 until January 23rd.

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