Cast: Steven Yeun, Ali Wong, Young Mazino, Joseph Lee, Remy Holt, David Choe, and ensemble.
Creator: Lee Sung Jin.
Director: Jake Schreier, Hikari, and Lee Sung Jin
Streaming On: Netflix
Language: English (with subtitles).
Runtime: 10 Episodes, Around 40 Minutes Each.
Beef Review: What’s It About:
An elite botanist, Amy (Ali) and a contractor who can take up any legal/illegal job for money, Danny (Steven), indulge in a road rage incident where the two have a heated up race against each other. The episode irks both throughout, and they seek revenge. Those two minutes of anger make them destroy their lives in order to seek revenge for an incident that could be brushed with an apology.
Beef Review: What Works:
How many times have you indulged in a road rage show in your life? How many times have you decided to teach the opponent a concrete lesson? Has burning down their house or catfishing them ever been the plan? The human mind is a creature that can lead to destruction from heaven pretty soon. Especially when there is micro-aggression ruling it, there is no beast more evil than it. Lee Sung Jin understands this very grammar as it questions the existence of two individuals so filled with rage that they destroy their entire world to satisfy their agitated egos.
Amy and Danny are two people you could never imagine talking to each other on a typical day. Both thirty-something Asian immigrants to the white world have another divide between them. They are a class apart and economically at the two ends of the spectrum. She is marinated in money, hard-earned money that she has earned for herself and her family. Her world is of a show-home and a studio that sells plants to make millions. She attends parties where the host announces the theme as ‘Mushrooms’ and talk about them as a high power we must surrender to. Her mother-in-law explains a karmic story of a chair that is main with her butt-shaped mould. It is all ludicrous, but it is her world. She has the cash and can afford being that.
Bang opposite is Danny. A guy living a hand-to-mouth life earning only enough to survive, he is pressed under the burden of responsibilities, good or bad. The only dream he sees is building his parents home in the US and bring them back from Korea. His victory is in eating a staple sandwich. So when I say you could never see their paths otherwise, it all makes sense. Amy won’t even hire Danny. But it is the ego and rage that takes centre stage. It is brilliant how Lee Sung Jin, with his team of writers including Jean Kyoung Frazier, Marie Hanhnhon Nguyen, and more, layers this world. Every plot, every parallel story, has its own layers, and they don’t even feel overdone at any point. Love how racism is not even a conversation because the evils have intensified within to be bothered about an outer devil.
Yes, it is a battle between the haves, and the have-nots (like Parasite) but not for rights or stealing a piece luxury but for a personal vendetta that will give them satisfaction. Their rage is not just about each other but their conditions too. Danny aspires to have what Amy does, and when someone has something you desire and decides to do wrong to you, it triggers even more. He is humane and even wants to avoid the fight, but he is also a man with fighting tendencies, so have to give it back if the other makes the first move. Amy is a woman who had seen Danny’s side of the world before she earned the big money. Her parents have seen the war, and the soldiers eat birds, making them devoid of the chirping. Everything is earned by her, and no one ever gave her anything. She is the providing hand that never received something in return. She finds refuge in m*sturbating with a gun, because that speaks power, and she loves that she finally has it.
There is so much to learn in how the creators never let their ideology of the setup affect the emotional core of the story that has two people crying inside for attention but also acting like they can serve their surrounding thanklessly. There is so much politics and a dig at elitism but all so subtle. In a crucial scene talks about people romanticising wealth, the makers put forth a valid argument as Amy says, “The Buddha was Buddha because he was a prince first; he had stuff to renounce.” In the course of the show you see why Amy behaves the way she does and how maybe we can see bits and pieces of us.
Beef is a rollercoaster that travels through genres and an array of emotions. There is a nod to generational trauma, parenting hazards, depression pushing people to the wall, and these broken humans living their lives grinding hard not to let the pain ever come up. Dialogue writers, cinematographers, set designers, and the art department they all need raise and a massive one. It is because of them that the show looks like a meditation amid the choas and both never cancel each other.
That brings me to A24 (Everything Everywhere All At Once). Thank you, Thank you for taking the baton to intensify representation in a much more inclusive way than we have had in the past.
Beef Review: Star Performance:
Ali Wong as Amy is one of the most complex characters the fictional world has to offer this year. Why obsessed with money, she also has a reason to be so protective about her wealth and being so over the top about it. In rage she becomes a demon but never the villain, and the credit of that smooth transition goes to Wong. Her approach to Amy is so powerful yet vulnerable in its own way.
Steven Yeun as Danny is bound to win hearts and make you root for him the most. Humanity weighs more in his heart even when he is at the failing end most of the times. The layers of divide multiply for him than Amy, because the first stays with him, his brother. The character study of a man stuck between two generations trying to preserve the teachings of his father and also acting progressive is subtle but very impactful. We deserve much more Yeun content in life. Together the two are a fireball because they are never visually fighting until the last showdown, but you can feel their agitation in you bones.
Joseph Lee as George is the goodness Beef has to offer. No, I don’t mean his glamour. Amongst everyone he is the real ‘rich’ who was born with a golden spoon. He is calm and human but also sees the world as white without being aware of the black, forget grey. He is the rich who is content and doesn’t have hunger at all, an ideal man/husband. Joseph who looks opposite to his character does a brilliant job has convincing us he is George and it is a task. You cannot expect someone with that charm having no iota of arrogance.
David Choe as Danny’s cousin Isaac is the chaos of the entire plot. The actor is natural and fun. The paintings you see with every episode title, some of them are his. Maria Bello plays Jordon with the perfectly needed arrogance and sass. For someone who has money and is so cut off from the real world that she doesn’t even bother talking to poor, Jordan is a character that can go extremely wrong. But trust Lee Sung Jin and Maria to be the best.
Beef Review: What Doesn’t Work:
The fact that the show is not yet being marketed in the Indian market. For a show representing the part and coming from the same mill that backed the Oscar-winning monstrous movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once, the PR is too weak.
Beef Review: Last Words:
Amy in one of the final scenes says “It’s selfish of broken people to spread their brokenness.” Beef is a selfish show, and we must love it for that very fact. It’s immersive, dark, and haunting, but also retrospective of the human nature and the divides amongst us. Also, you aren’t the only one realising Beed meant that another beef and not your favourite juicy steak!
For more recommendations, read our House Of The Dragon Season 1 Review here.
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