In a world where celebrity chefs are rockstars and TV personalities, it's no surprise that there are so many films and television series that focus on the life of a chef. Audiences love witnessing the art form of cuisine and the pressures of the environment, and thanks in part of Jon Favreau's 'Chef', food on screen has become nothing short of sexy. Well then surely Christoffer Boe's ('Reconstruction') 'A Taste of Hunger', which neatly combines food and sex, should have viewers salivating. An up-close look at a relationship through the lens of food is a recipe for success by any measure, but does Boe's efforts live up to the premise?
Living in Copenhagen, Maggi (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal, 'Lykke-Per') and Carsten (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, TV's 'Game of Thrones') are a married couple who together are aiming for their holy grail: a Michelin star for their restaurant. They are an incredibly ambitious duo, projecting the title screen quote that begins the film - "If you ask me what I want, I'll tell you everything." Strong words to open your film with, but Boe knows his characters and sets them up in this way. Carsten is the head chef and Maggi is his partner at their restaurant called Malus. Maggi and Carsten are a power couple in the famous Copenhagen food scene, and their relationship from the off displays strength and support for one another's lofty ambitions. However, it's not as smooth sailing as one might think, with the stress of business and the pursuit of perfection creating webs that will ultimately entangle and potentially destroy the relationship. There is a line at one point in the film where a close friend of Carsten warns him, and I paraphrase, that a Michelin star can be a ticket to paradise as much as a road to ruin.
'A TASTE OF HUNGER' TRAILER
Boe splits his film into five chapters, each mirroring their given name - sweet, sour, fat, salt and heat. Audiences learn more about Carsten and Maggi as each chapter progresses, discovering kinks and secrets that were otherwise unknown. We see when they first meet, when cracks start to appear, what they are willing to sacrifice and how they are with their children. Speaking of, the eldest daughter Chloe (Flora Augusta, in her feature debut) has a significant role to play in the family dynamic, and does it all with the sophistication and subtlety of an actor well beyond her years.
There's lots going on in this film, but ultimately it is a film about a relationship and what it means to want it all. Unfortunately, though visually colourful and dynamic, Boe is strained by having too much to do. There are lots of great ideas here and certain moments that really stand out, but by drawing on all these ideas we don't quite get the focus and attention that certain aspects deserve. It feels at times as though Boe had lots of Post-it notes of ideas, stuck them onto a wall and tried to piece them together like a detective with a theory. What results is a film of good moments, but no overall concept that feels sufficient enough to stick a landing.
It is a film about a relationship and what it means to want it all. Unfortunately, though visually colourful and dynamic, Boe is strained by having too much to do.
As well as the expansive ideas in 'A Taste in Hunger', there is a surprising number of genre changes - and while this is no bad thing, none of them seem to really take off on their own. There are elements of erotic thriller that are just not very sexy, there are plenty of "food porn" shots but don't quite show off the chefs' skills enough, there is family drama with just not enough bite, and the kitchen drama which sometimes feels suffocated by everything else going on. Again, nothing here is bad and it all looks great on screen, but it just needed that extra pinch of salt to neatly bring it all together neatly.
Greis-Rosenthal and Coster-Waldau are great and their on-screen chemistry is palpable. The co-stars who have a role to play - although mostly small - all deliver what is necessary, and the gourmet environment that Boe tries to create feels tangible. I enjoyed the sequence of chapters, although as with most films who do so, it doesn't always feel completely necessary. As a film that explores the ideas of what makes a relationship work and what it takes for it to all go sour, 'A Taste in Hunger' is more than serviceable. It's not the best family drama nor does it have the best food scenes, but in the current climate where audiences want a taste of both, then look no further.