A Taste of Hunger Review: A Visual Feast Overcomes Strained Melodrama

A Danish couple (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Katrine Gries-Rosenthal) risks everything to get a Michelin Star for their restaurant.
A Danish couple risks their marriage, family, and struggling restaurant in search of a treasured Michelin Star. A Taste of Hunger is a sumptuously directed feast for the eyes. Director/co-writer Christoffer Boe gets top marks for artistry. The relationship drama at its center strays into soap opera territory with contrived duplicity. But strong lead performances thankfully wrangles the narrative back to believable.
Carsten (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Maggie (Katrine Gries-Rosenthal) have sunk everything they own into their Copenhagen restaurant. Malus offers a fine dining tasting menu with Carsten’s brilliant culinary skills on display. Maggie supports her husband’s creativity, manages the finances, and raises their two children; but feels left behind by his perfectionism. The story begins on an early evening with a disastrous error. Carsten learns that a possible Michelin inspector was served spoiled food. A Michelin Star would save Malus. But a negative review would destroy everything they have worked so hard to accomplish. As Carsten rages at his staff for the mistake, Maggie tries to find the critic and convince him for another chance.
A Taste of Hunger has two storylines that run concurrently. The quest for the Michelin Star takes place in the present, while Carsten and Maggie’s marriage is explored in flashbacks. The past events are broken down into categories, Sweet, Sour, Fat, and Salt. The climax, titled Heat, caps the Michelin plot in the wake of melodramatic developments. A torrid affair, mysteriously exposed, wreaks havoc in their fragile lives.
Christoffer Boe (Reconstruction, Journal 64) crafts a stunningly cinematic film. A Taste of Hunger is washed in striking blue, green, and red hues. The vivid lighting scheme gives a dreamlike feel that varies depending on the intensity of the scene. Boe uses delicate close-ups to capture Carsten’s exquisite meals and masterful cooking techniques. You can almost smell the aroma wafting from the screen. Boe then shifts to dark and desolate as the couple face ugly reveals. A Taste of Hunger had a visionary artist at the helm.
The affair subplot becomes too sensational. Infidelity in a strained marriage is completely understandable. A Taste of Hunger takes the dalliance to a cutthroat level that smacks ludicrous. The characters involved, what happens, and its resolve could have been pulled from a saucy Mexican telenovela. The film is shot in a fantastical way. That’s understood, but the story told is realistic and relatable to a point. Katrine Gries-Rosenthal and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, veteran character actors, elevate the script from its unnecessarily lurid elements. They have ample screen chemistry as both lovers and parents.
I foolishly watched A Taste of Hunger on an empty stomach. My mouth watered like a slobbering hound. It didn’t help that dinner afterwards wasn’t remotely a four-star takeout. A Taste of Hunger is not just for foodies. It’s a well-directed, visually delectable experience that overcomes a silly melodramatic turn. A Taste of Hunger has Danish dialogue with English subtitles. It is a Zentropa production with a VOD and select theatrical release on January 28th from Magnolia Pictures.
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