Review by Sean Boelman
For a while, competitive cooking shows were all the rage on television, but it seems like their time has mostly come and gone. The Danish drama A Taste of Hunger would have been a hit had it come out in the height of their popularity, and while Christoffer Boe’s film is mostly enjoyable, it also isn’t spectacular.
The movie follows a couple whose personal life becomes rife with turmoil when they set out to earn a Michelin star, the highest honor possible in the culinary world. However, those hoping for a scrumptious cooking thriller about chefs trying to create the best dish possible may be disappointed, because this is more interested in the behind-the-scenes drama, for better or worse.
One of the most frustrating things about the film is that it doesn’t seem to understand how to establish stakes. It really banks on the audience knowing the significance of a Michelin star (granted, it’s a pretty well-known accolade) for their understanding as to why it’s important. And in terms of the melodrama, the movie leans into the histrionics without really heightening the emotion.
It definitely would have helped had the characters been a bit more well-developed. It’s clear that Boe and co-writer Tobias Lindholm are trying for the characters to be flawed but relatable, and while they aren’t exactly unlikable, they also come across as frustratingly distant, it also doesn’t help the audience connect.
The film also doesn’t say anything particularly interesting for the genre. What is said about the toll that chasing perfection takes on a person isn’t new or different from what similar movies have explored before, but perhaps more damningly, the way it says it doesn’t feel distinctive whatsoever.
Katrine Greis-Rosenthal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are without a doubt the best parts of this movie. They both give very good performances that are far more grounded than the material they are working with. Greis-Rosenthal, in particular, is impressive, giving a turn that feels like much more than the soap opera lead which it effectively is.
There are the obligatory food shots sprinkled throughout the film, and while they look extremely appetizing, they are too sparse in quantity for them to be especially memorable. It’s a shame that the culinary aspects of the movie seem like an afterthought here, as it is this context that makes it stand out.
A Taste of Hunger has some really strong things going on, and it’s a mostly entertaining watch, but there is not enough substance here. It’s like going to most fancy restaurants — the entrée may be tasty, but the portion is underwhelming for the price.
A Taste of Hunger hits theaters and VOD on January 28.