I’m sure there have been moments when you wanted to explode against people who have wronged you. I don’t think there’s a human being on this Earth who hasn’t experienced that awful, sinking feeling when you realize that you now have beef. In the new, limited series “Beef,” a dark, dark comedy from first-time creator Lee Sung Jin, premiering April 6 on Netflix, there’s an exploration into the lives of two L.A. motorists’ fury.
Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) is a struggling contractor and handyman who is filled with guilt about his immigrant parents who were forced to return to Korea. Amy Lau (Ali Wong) is inches away from selling her thriving houseplant business, for millions, to a greedy group of investors. Her dream is to stay home with her husband George (Joseph Lee) and young daughter June (Remy Holt).
When Danny and Amy meet, in a showdown in a parking lot, it sets something off in both of them as they chase each other through suburbia, which is captured via home security cameras and shown online. Even months after their first encounter, their desire to ruin each other’s lives builds.
The limited series slides us into this crazy beef carefully and with humor. It’s such a gentle introduction that you begin to think this should have been a simple, 90-minute feature instead of a 10-episode limited Netflix series. But the depth of why each of these characters is becoming unglued draws you into their story. Between their vicious pranks, we can clearly understand that “hurt people, hurt people” despite their mutual efforts to appear absolutely fine.
Poor Amy: This woman seems to have it all but on the inside, she’s seething over a passive-aggressive and meddling mother-in-law (Patti Yasutake); the cold, and calculated manipulations of a billionaire (Maria Bello) who continues to tease her about acquiring her business; and George’s obsession with following in his artist father’s footsteps despite having no talent, at all.
Poor Danny: He’s in debt to his cousin (David Choe), who may be a dangerous and violent man. He has a lazy, cryptocurrency-obsessed younger brother Paul (Young Mazino), who has all the energy of youth and none of the experience necessary to navigate their lives.
As the limited series progresses, we see what makes the leads tick, as well as their families. There’s a long list of disappointments across the board. And despite the awful behavior of Danny and Amy, they are actually surrounded by good people, sound advice, and support—we can clearly see that each of these revenge-obsessed souls is capable of kindness, but refuses to extend empathy to others, also in pain; instead, choosing to allow the anger to swallow them whole.
“Beef” is one of the upcoming TV projects from A24, the studio behind Best Picture winners “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Moonlight”; a company known for diversity, inclusion, and risk-taking. Understanding the quality of projects produced by A24, “Beef” fits because the series is smart and well-cast with excellent direction and production design. Despite the indie current running through the series, it’s clear that it’s polished. The writing is superlative, managing to show the differences in ethnicity and class among the Asian-American characters.
“Beef” tosses up many interesting ideas. One stuck to me more than the others. In a therapy session, Amy asks: “Do you think love can really be unconditional?”
A great question, don’t you think?
She continued, “You know, there must be some point where we all fall outside the reach of love. Like the mistake is so big and then the love has to stop.”
Yikes, another excellent question posing as a statement.
Perhaps what makes this series so special is the observational space we are given as an audience. We follow as Danny and Amygo deeper and to much sadder places. They are filled with growing anxieties and festering wounds that hurt the people in their world: hurt people, hurt people and “Beef” knows this better than most. I won’t spoil the ending of A24’s “Beef” (on Netflix on April 6), but I will suggest that you be prepared to take a look inside yourself and if there are any simmering kinds of beef in your life, you might want to squash them.