A Curious Trend Confirmed by a Surprising Thai Film
Netflix’s recent releases have been dominated by “The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die” spin-off and the Spanish film “Fenomenas,” based on the true story of the Hepta Group. However, there is one unexpected entrant in Netflix’s top films: a Thai movie.
Directed by Sitisiri Mongkolsiri and written by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, “Hungry” has taken the platform by storm since its release on April 8th. This success solidifies the upward trend of movies and TV shows centered around the culinary world. In 2022, films like “The Menu,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and Ralph Fiennes, and “The Bear,” a Disney+ series that surprised everyone, captivated audiences. Let’s not forget “Boiling Point,” a 90-minute continuous shot depicting the stress of a professional kitchen. With the arrival of “Makinai: The Maiko Cook,” the Japanese series that promises to be Netflix’s highlight for 2023, and now “Hungry,” it’s clear that food appeals to our eyes as much as our stomachs.
The Story of Aoy and “Hungry”
“Hungry” tells the story of Aoy (played by Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, a name that even Schwarzenegger would find complicated), a twenty-something who runs a family-owned stir-fried noodle restaurant in Bangkok’s old town. One day, she receives an invitation to join “Hungry,” Thailand’s most exclusive team of luxury chefs, led by the brilliant yet detestable Paul (Nopachai Chaiyanam).
Aoy embarks on a journey to fulfill her dream of becoming a renowned chef, akin to the challenges faced on shows like “Master Chef” or “Celebrity Bake Off.” She transitions from the street food stalls of a working-class neighborhood to the high-end cuisine of a luxurious restaurant. This journey comes with its own set of pressures, including perfectionism, discipline, and the absence of labor inspectors. When we say “everything,” we mean everything.
The Unhealthy Competition We Love
While savoring food on screen is enjoyable, it seems that what truly captivates audiences is the unhealthy competition to surpass oneself and others, no matter the sacrifices made along the way—both physically and psychologically. Stories of nearly superhuman achievements, exemplified by films like “Whiplash,” which catapulted Damien Chazelle to fame and earned JK Simmons an Oscar for his portrayal of the rigorous and controversial music teacher Terence Fletcher. The end justifies the means, regardless of what they may be.
“Hungry” explores this theme to an extent. Aoy has her limits when it comes to morality and values. When these boundaries are crossed, she doesn’t hesitate to seek out new environments to exploit and leverage her talent while never losing sight of her ambition and dreams.
In a way, this Netflix film reflects another trend in recent cinema: mocking the snobbery and posturing of the upper class. Films like the Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The Sadness Triangle” and the previously mentioned “The Menu” excel in this arena.
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