Comparing simplicity and specialty in Hunger, the taut made in Thai culinary thriller where class struggle and appearance are the main courses of an effective but not surprising menu.
I kitchen drama they are one of the most appetizing dishes of the moment. The Menu by Mark Mylod, Boiling Point by Philip Barantini or the superlative The Bear on Disney+. Between cinema and seriality, dramatic culinary thrillers have been able to establish themselves decisively in the panorama of quality entertainment between the big and small screens, carving out an important place for themselves in the contemporary cinematographic and television market. Between sophisticated psychological mechanisms and one storytelling realistic of the suffocating internal dynamics of starred kitchens or second-rate fast food, with prevailing hierarchies to respect and brigades to keep at bay, especially in the last three years the sub-genre has found its precise almost idyllic dimension, so much so that it has begun to be also copied outside the Hollywood and Western horizons. From thailand and thanks to Netflix it comes like this Hunger by the cult director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, who draws directly from the American or English formula to scaffold a drama in the kitchen where tension and social struggle actively alternate in a film that is perhaps not entirely original and inspired but valid in its arguments heated up over a lively flame. We talk about it today in our review, reminding you that the title is already available in streaming for viewing.
Hunger for success
Hunger tells the story of Aoy. The eldest daughter of a poor family and owner of a small noodle restaurant, the girl has never been able to choose who to become. Her younger sister can study thanks to her and her father’s sacrifices, while her third brother dedicates his time to creating social content with little success. Aoy spends her life working and in front of the stove, with a wok in hand and a raw talent to refine, above all capable of managing the fire with the skill of a true chef. One day she appears at her restaurant her Tone di lei, sous-chef of the famous and esteemed chef Paul, also known as “the chef of the stars” and owner of Hunger, a home cooking service company for the rich and wealthy. He represents the true culinary icon of Thailand and apparently is looking for a new cook. Surprised by Aoy’s skills, Tone invites her to try to win the place in the cuisine of chef Paul, an austere and mysterious man, totally dedicated to his art and to his customers. The girl manages to convince him and get the job, but from then on, a path of change and evolution begins for her that leads her to discover a world bigger and even fiercer than he could have imagined, where the approval of others seems to be the most important goal to reach, subjecting self-acceptance to appearance and hunger for success.In a continuous psychological challenge against thought Paul’s diamond, Aoy will have to choose whether to give importance to the passion for cooking or to the obsession with it and for fame, trying to change his own existence forever.
The Menu, the Citizen Kane by Mark Mylod
Appetite as a metaphor
Says chef Paul: “The real winners are always the ones who are hungrier“. For him, food is not a demonstration of love or passion, but a direct representation of a social status. Those who are low are magic to feed themselves (and it is a concept that also clarifies Aoy’s brother) and those who always have the stomach eats full for ostentation, giving rise to a different appetite, which is that for approval.In this sense, Hunger has its critical roots in the great social disparities that afflict Eastern countries, not unlike what it won, for example, in Parasite o Squid Game, to name two mainstream and well-known products. Class struggle is an ever-present theme in these genre productions, but in Mongkolsiri’s film we think about a lateral aspect of the subject, trying to compare two different ways of conceiving wealth.
Paul is a social animal able to perceive, understand and respond to the requests of his customers, who generally do not want his food but him, his presence, the very fact of being able to afford it. When he says that “caviar tastes like shit” discovers a focal point: one tends to be what one eats, but above all something is expensive because it is special or is it special because it is expensive? Aoy tries to understand the nature of Paul’s thinking but “He still smells like his noodle stand” – as the chef scolds her -, which however represents her essence, her nature, not necessarily to be shunned. Isn’t it true that simplicity often means speciality? Although Paul believes that a deep-rooted conviction cannot be beaten, and in specific that he is the best, in the end it is the actions that count and the ability to make decisions according to ethics and instinct, going beyond just the appetite for fame and wish fulfillment and simply remembering who you want to be.
Hunger is a title that does not hold big surprises and is not built to imitate a thriller structure like The Menu or come up with something new in the genre. In this sense, he is not very inspired but knows how to achieve a certain effectiveness of intent in the leitmotive of the psychology of social conflict, staging an active clash between two protagonists at antipodes but with the same determination. Excellent performances by the interpreters of Aoy and Paul and also the sequence of the final banquet, as well as a composed and at times refined direction by Mongkolsiri. Perhaps it gets lost in a couple of emotional delays that don’t have adequate weight and measure for the purposes of the narrative, but overall in terms of writing, aesthetics and technique, Hunger is a decent Thai kitchen drama that deserves viewing.
In conclusion, Hunger proves to be a discrete oriental-style cooking drama, where the re-proposed formulas are those of Hollywood or more generally of Western production but themes and style have specific intentions in shape. A culinary soft-thriller strong in excellent interpretations which is perhaps uninspired and all in all predictable, but which knows how to hit the conceptual objective and create the right dramatic tension where and when needed.
Because we like it
- Mongkolsiri’s direction, refined and dedicated to the story.
- The performances of Paul and Aoy that support the entire film.
- Class conflict at the table proves to be an effective argument.
- The Final Banquet.
- It is totally devoid of inspirational originality.
- Many narrative elements leave the time they find.
- For what it wants to say and how it says it, the film is perhaps too diluted in its duration.