Aruna dan Lidahnya [Indonesian Movie Review]

Director: Edwin

Scriptwriter: Titien Wattimena

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 2 hours 1 minute

Embarks on a tempting culinary journey undertaken by a philosopher chef, a keen food and love expert, and two troubled epidemiologists. 

Why It’s Worth Watching

Aruna dan Lidahnya (Aruna and Her Palate) undoubtedly seduces the cinephiles’ eyes and tongue with the hidden gems of Indonesian delicacies. The unheard-of culinary journey, alongside the wacky humor and goofy love theme, is really intriguing. Notably as it comes from the work of Laksmi Pamuntjak, a winning novelist and food writer.

Foodgasm through a Cinematic Experience

There’re few Indonesian movies which stories center around food despite that there’s no end when it comes to local cuisines that spread throughout hundreds of islands across the country. Despite the number of the movies is relatively small and might be considered new for its theme, some related movies were praised by getting awards or nominations (Tabula Rasa and Madre).

Nevertheless, all preceding movies within this area didn’t much exploit the richness of food, and as a result, they are treated as mere objects that spice other larger points being discussed. Aruna and Her Palate assures the other way by consistently presenting the food bonanza that plays its role as the “main dish” of the story and the refreshing interlude between the tiring works of two epidemiologists in their investigation of bird flu.

The food(s) in this movie strangely appraises the four eccentric people whose interest in food speaks louder than what it seems. There is chef-food monk Bono (Nicholas Saputra) who secretly admires the food and love expert Nadezhda ‘Nad’ (Hannah Al Rashid). Together they treat food with high integrity which makes them look like they’re experiencing a spiritual journey. Bono’s best friend, the blunt woman Aruna (Dian Sastrowardoyo) shares the same craving for food and somehow loses her taste for it. Farish (Oka Antara), the not very sensitive guy that happens to be Aruna’s crush, begins to show his interest in food after watching the other three’s unusual admiration.

The tempting shots of distinctive food being served, and how these focal characters munch it with enthusiasm and their assertive assertion toward the food, has successfully brought enough color that is new in Indonesian cinema where the foregoing storytelling is hardly found.

Edwin, shockingly, delivers this movie weightlessly and amusingly, despite his former movies such as Posesif and Babi Buta yang Ingin Terbang (Blind Pig Who Wants To Fly) affirm dissimilar tone. The choice of actors and actresses, especially for Aruna and Bono, perfectly fits as they execute each role fairly and squarely. They surely can detach from their most popular roles as lovers in Ada Apa dengan Cinta? (What’s Up With Love?).

With Bono’s lively attitude and laid-back dialogue about the concept of food’s ingredients as well as hidden affection to Nad, Nicolas manages to set off the peculiar calm manner that imparted to his previous characters. Sastro’s silly play on Aruna’s jealousy and direct narrative to viewers has given the freshness to the lead character. The two’s friendship easily appears warm and honest as they are generally good, old friends in real life. Nad’s arrival adds more value while giving more breath to the relationship. Contrary to them, Farish’s stiffness and mysterious motive give different nuances that if doesn’t define the story, perhaps complement it.

It is quite a hard task to give these characters each separate spotlight. Yet, Edwin succeeds in doing so, especially with the memorably goofy dialogues and Aruna’s dream that keeps portraying her missing taste of food. The use of dream and Aruna’s numb palate (and Bono’s concern to this) are a delightful way to point what’s wrong in Aruna, as it is intertwined with the complicated love interest that accompanies the investigation of the bird flu epidemic.

Quote

“Hidup itu kayak makanan. Dalam satu piring ini nih lu bisa ngerasain yang pahit sepahit-pahitnya, atau yang seasin-asinnya kalau lu makannya sendiri-sendiri. Nah, tapi kalau misalnya lu ambil sedikit-sedikit terus jadiin satu suapan terus lu makan, baru dia mengungkapkan jati diri yang sebenarnya.”

“Life is just like food. In just one plate, you can taste the most bitter flavor, or the saltiest flavor, if you eat the items separately. But, if you take a little bit of everything in one bite, only then will it reveal its true self.”

Score

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A local culinary journey between the investigation of flu bird epidemic, love story, and a tasteless palate.

 

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