Judge Daryl Loomis is just a guy with big floppy ears.
When the goat speaks…listen.
Funny coincidence about this review: I'm sitting outside in the summer heat, munching on some aged goat gouda that had recently arrived at my house while reading The Cheese Chronicles, by Liz Thorpe, when the mail carrier arrived with my review product for the week. In the envelope was a disc I had not requested, but that came in an intriguingly colorful package. What did the back of the box describe? Goat cheese! I wasn't sure how such milky delights could translate into a compelling romantic comedy, but it made me hungry. So after eating a little more cheese, I went inside to find out that it actually works out pretty well.
Facts of the Case
Virgil (Mark Scheimber) and Angie (Sydney Andrews) are madly in love, but they've come to a crossroads. She has taken a job in Detroit and he's too sick of his job at the flavor factory to accept the transfer he has been offered, so they must separate. While he tries to find a job to move out to be with her, their long distance relationship deteriorates. One day, he tries an extremely rare goat cheese that is so good it knocks him out. When he comes to, he realizes that in order to make something of himself and win back the heart of his love, he has to reproduce this cheese exactly. Throwing his whole savings into the wind, he buys a couple of goats, rents a little bit of land, and with the help of some random weirdos he meets along the way, sets out to create this wonder of the dairy world.
I am a man who loves cheese, maybe so much so that I would have been predisposed to liking Artois the Goat, regardless of its quality. Still, I found the film to be a charming and romantic morsel that loves its subject, but also knows how to have fun with it. Food and romance play equally in the story, but they don't play together very often, or at least very nicely. Virgil's love of cheese is the main roadblock in his relationship with Angie, but his love for Angie is also the main obstacle in his relationship with cheese. I like how writer/director brothers Cliff and Kyle Bogart force Virgil to choose between the two things he cares about most. His goal, and the drive of the film, is to see him reconcile both; to have his cheese and eat it too.
Artois the Goat is a farcical foodie romcom that wears its heart on its sleeve, but still knows how to laugh at itself. It's closer in spirit to Japanese food films like Tampopo than to the shrill and pretentious Julie and Julia. Where that film celebrates cooking as some kind of yuppie triumph, Artois equates good food with a good life. The love that Virgil puts into cooking and the pride he takes in it translates directly into his romantic life.
Virgil loves Angie, but love isn't always enough. He hates the life they've built together and, most of all, his choice of career. He doesn't realize it, though, until after he has applied for his transfer. At his plant he worked on a new raspberry sorbet flavoring that a pharmaceutical company has bought the rights for to use use in a cough drop. This means a huge bonus for him, but they're also expediting his transfer as a result. This is great news until he tastes the product and he finally sees what horrible tastes he's helping to force onto consumers. Instead of accepting the transfer, he resigns in disgust, even though he knows this means the likely end to his relationship with Angie.
Virgil is willing to make this sacrifice because, the way he has become, he doesn't respect himself. In order to begin to love himself, and truly love Angie, he feels that he must make something good, something he can take pride in. It may seem strange to forego love for dairy, but cheese represents Virgil's struggle for self-respect. If he can succeed in making the perfect wheel, he can take pride in something, love himself, and ultimately, win back Angie's heart. If he can't, he never deserved her in the first place.
Virgil and Angie make a totally cute couple with an infectious and nerdy charm that never feels forced. The characters are goofy, earnest, and altogether likeable, all words I can use to describe the film as a whole. The Bogart brothers do a good job of keeping the story light, while still making the audience care about the relationship. The supporting characters are an eccentric bunch, absurd in both their roles and their performances. For all their quirkiness, Virgil and Angie are by far the most stable people in this world. In these roles, Mark Scheimber and Sydney Andrews are very good, especially since this is the first film for both actors. Their tone is right in line with the story: cute, but earnest, and with just the right amount of cheese to let you know that they're having fun.
Artois the Goat comes to us in a nice looking, but bare bones release from IndiePix. The anamorphic image is very good for a low budget film, with strong colors, deep blacks, and glistening cheese. Shot in the beautiful, but rarely seen Texas hill country, the landscapes are gorgeously detailed throughout. For a low-budget indie, it's about as good as transfers get. The sound doesn't fair quite so well, but it isn't bad. It's a stereo mix with clear dialog and music, but little spatial separation and fairly weak ambient noise. It's serviceable, but that's all. There are no extras.
Artois the Goat is much better than your typical indie romcom. The characters are fun and the story is engaging, plus there's not a touch of self-importance anywhere. Mostly, the movie makes me hungry for cheese.
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