Steven Yeun & Ali Wong in Netflix’s Thrilling Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

If you’ve ever been in a crowded parking lot, you’ll surely recognize the hysteria in Netflix Beef: A truck almost hit an SUV, which honked loudly before driving away. You’ll probably even associate the urge to do what the cars are going to do next, even if you’ve never done it yourself: The truck chased the SUV by abandoning a vehicle. reckless way Fast and furious racers, slide into oncoming traffic and rush through suburban lawns.

But Amy (Ali Wong) and Danny (Steven Yeun), the duel leader of Beef, takes things even further. The meeting leads to an endless cycle of revenge, in which they destroy each other’s property, sabotage each other’s careers, and destroy each other’s families. It’s a hilarious premise on its face, and half an hour goes by as wild twists pile up. What was less expected, however – and what really lingers after the dust has settled – is the series’ emphasis on the characters’ flawed humanity and boundless sense of empathy for the their existential despair.


Key point

A party of sharp comedy, wild thrills and empathy.

Broadcast date: Thursday, April 6 (Netflix)
Cast: Ali Wong, Steven Yeun, Joseph Lee, Young Mazino, David Choe, Patti Yasutake
Creator: Lee Sung Jin

At the center of Beef hides a fear so great, it threatens to swallow both main characters. At the end of the 10-episode season, a shaky Amy says it during a therapy session: “Do you think true love can be unconditional?” she asked. “You know, there must have been a time when we were all out of the reach of love. Like the mistake was too big and then love had to stop.” By then, we’ve seen most of her life and Danny’s predictions are based on the possibility that love could run out – each one is afraid to slip or let the other see they have, for fear that they will lose everything they have worked so hard to build.

For Amy, a self-made businesswoman with a handsome husband (Joseph Lee’s George), an adorable daughter (Remy Holt’s Junie) and a posh home in Calabasas, that means smiling through her jaw. Her teeth clenched as she mumbled about how lucky she felt. For Danny, the owner of a business that is failing a contract, it seems reassuring to his roommate/brother Paul (young Mazino) and their long-suffering parents in South Korea that he’s got everything under control – when in reality, he’s had to apply for a loan from his recently released cousin Isaac (David Choe).

The two were on the verge of breaking up by the time they met, as Yeun and Wong set up a pair of spectacular performances. Yeun’s Danny holds himself like a clenched fist – always on the lookout for an impending blow and ready to strike back at any moment. Wong, in perhaps her most dramatic role to date, is rarely better than she is here — her large eyes and pursed lips show us every seam and crack in the car. Amy’s sobriety mask. The two spend most of the season watching each other from afar. But in the moments when the couple comes together, their energy flares up with something more complex and exciting than mere attraction or enmity.

In their obsessive mutual hatred, we realize that each has found someone they don’t need to protect — that they don’t need to worry about impressing or disappointing, that they direct their worst impulses. In that light, it doesn’t seem surprising that their long-standing feud seems to have given them a new life. Danny’s face lights up with glee in the final moments of the premiere, directed by Hikari (37 seconds), when he ran away after defiling her home. We also see the smile on her face as she runs after him and screams. Both have found “a reason to start over,” as Hoobastank sings in one of the many turn of the millennium songs that is both loud satirical and heartfelt.

Such tonal changes are par for the course in Beef, execute them so skillfully that it seems easy. Creator Lee Sung Jin (FXX’s dave) lays the groundwork for each plot twist and mood swing in a textured world of real life (sometimes literally, as in the cracks and stains on the walls of the humble church that Danny attends) and in the characters seem complex like real people. Every crazy decision is rooted in motivations we can understand, even if the characters making them don’t. Each joke that develops from the characters is made and written so vividly, they seem to jump off the screen. An idle talk about the nutritional content of Sara Lee pound cake is funny for its frivolity, but it’s also an effective way to ensure two supporting characters are introduced in half a season — the criminal Low-level Bobby (Rekstizzy) and Michael (Andrew Santino) — feel like living like any other.

That observability also follows the characters to deeper and sadder places. As the season goes on, we slowly get used to the worries and traumas that plague so many people in Danny and Amy’s orbit. There is a quiet loneliness that radiates from Fumi (Patty Yasutake), Amy’s mother-in-law, as she eats lunch alone. Or the humiliation that crinkles across Paul’s face when he asks relatives to help fund his dream, but is shot down. Amy and Danny seem to believe they are the only ones who are unhappy, and not entirely without reason – George, for example, is always upbeat, can only think of telling his wife about her distasteful condition. by assuring her, “I know a lot of people who are battling depression and won.”

Beef know better, though. Over time, its generosity toward these frightened or lost souls becomes its own answer to Amy’s worries about the limits of love. At the end of the season, the anger infecting the leads seemed to have reached nearly everyone in their circle. We’ve seen them both at their worst, howling at their weirdest acts, gasping for breath at the level of physical and mental destruction they’ve left in their wake. get up. We’ve seen them and others cross boundaries that can threaten the strongest bonds — it can lead to a divorce, a self-destructive family, a distrust of a believer. . And we realized that none of that made us feel any less for them as human beings. Maybe Amy is right, and love is never truly unconditional. But its grace, it turns out, extends quite a distance.


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