Fantastic Fungi

Movie Information

The seemingly endless beneficial properties of mushrooms are extolled via gorgeous time-lapse photography and compelling interviews.
Genre: Documentary
Director: Louie Schwartzberg
Starring: Brie Larson, Paul Stamets, Andrew Weil
Rated: NR

If the information in Fantastic Fungi is to be believed, mushrooms are all-powerful entities responsible for having kept the planet going for billions of years and capable of healing seemingly everything that ails humankind.

Director Louie Schwartzberg, who stressed the importance of pollinators in his Disneynature film Wings of Life, makes a compelling argument for all of the above through plentiful interviews with insightful people who extol fungi’s apparently endless virtues.

Deservedly so, the documentary’s true stars are the fungi themselves, especially as depicted through Schwartzberg’s gorgeous time-lapse photography — quasi-phallic imagery of rapid growth that spans a thrilling range of varieties and colors.

Also aiding the cause is Brie Larson’s narration, which somewhat comically acts as a spokesperson for all mushrooms, calling to mind an imaginary public lecture in which a chanterelle voiced by the Captain Marvel star shares her kingdom’s important roles throughout the Earth’s history and its crucial acts still to come.

Larson’s name recognition serves as a mainstream legitimization of what’s otherwise a fairly small, obscure film, but the fungus advocates that Schwartzberg profiles would shine regardless — none more so than eccentric mycologist Paul Stamets, whose cool demeanor and palpable enthusiasm for his work prove contagious.

Stamets’ frequent appearances anchor tangents from researchers, medical professionals and formerly ill patients whose firsthand experiences with mushrooms’ cure-all qualities yield a series of revelations that border on unbelievable, yet evoke next to no desire to question their validity.

Perhaps best of all, Schwartzberg presents his exploration of the fringe topic in a brisk 80-minute package that only rarely wanes in energy and is bound to increase awareness of and appreciation for our fungus friends.

Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA).

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