Author’s note: This review was sitting in my queue over the weekend, meant to be published on 4/15/23. On Monday, 4/17, I was alerted to news surrounding the show that gave me pause to publish it. It resurfaced late last week that in 2014, one of BEEF’s costars, David Chloe (Isaac Cho), described a sexual assault he purportedly committed in detail on a podcast he was co-hosting. He also referred to himself as a “successful rapist.” While some sites did cover the story nine years ago, it wasn’t widely known. In 2017, he was again asked to clarify these comments, stated they were fictional and issued an apology. This might have ended it until the professional graffiti artist became an actor starring in a popular Netflix series. Last week many fans of BEEF began asking Ali Wong, Steven Yuen, Netflix, and/or A24 to make a statement on Chloe and his involvement in the show. I absolutely hope that his story was indeed fictional and that no assaults were committed. As of publication (4/19/23), no statements have been released by anyone mentioned above, and several podcast clips have been removed from social media, stating the DMCA. Wong’s Twitter has been private since at least 4/17, and there has been no news on BEEF’s renewal for a second season. The Hollywood Reporter has the full story.
If you grew up in Southern California or have lived here long enough as a driver, you’ve likely had at least one road rage incident. I’ve had a couple of terrifying ones. There was a time I was driving an old car with noisy brakes very slowly down a side street when a couple walked in front of my car. I braked, and the loud noise led them to believe I was speeding. So they jumped in their car and followed me for the next hour. In retrospect, I should have called 911, but I was young, and this was the pre-smartphone era, so I just drove around and around until I lost them. Road rage incidents often lead to far worse…ie, people being injured and killed. BEEF perfectly explores the psychological trauma that one seemingly minor incident can have and how it creeps into every aspect of a person’s life. It’s dark, and at times hilarious, and flawlessly acted by Ali Wong and Steven Yuen. I don’t know whether it will get a second season, but even as a limited series, it will stay with you long after finishing.
The incident that sparks the “beef” in BEEF could be a metaphor for any negative interaction. The online arguments and conversations often lead us to think the worst of the people on the other end. Maybe we see someone out in public do something we don’t like. It’s very easy to turn up our noses at them immediately. I know I’ve done it, and it’s been done to me. It’s easy now to say, “We should take a step back and think there’s another person on the other end,” but at the moment, all we feel is anger, hurt, confusion, or a mix of all three. Through the lens of a VERY dark comedy, BEEF shows us how we can let a thread of anger literally rip apart our lives. One moment that doesn’t need to mean anything can take hold of us and burrow further and further into our psyche until we’re left with nothing but our own emotions.
Steven Yuen has been getting much-deserved praise since his turn as Glenn Young on THE WALKING DEAD, including an Oscar nomination for MINARI. Ali Wong is known more for her stand-up specials, but over the last few years has had strong acting turns in ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE and PAPER GIRLS. Each embodies their roles here, as Danny and Amy, respectively, with such a force, it’s impossible to choose which is better. Yuen falls into his middle-class son of immigrants handyman role effortlessly. Wong shows she can handle meaty drama, and both are worthy of the movie-star status.
As a Los Angeles resident, I enjoyed seeing the various parts of the San Fernando Valley featured in BEEF. I was that Leonardo DiCaprio meme pointing at the TV during a scene filmed down the street from a friend’s home. I don’t know if the show will play as well in small-town America, but they say, “write what you know,” and the writers of BEEF definitely know the frustrations of suburban LA life. As a Netflix show, you can binge BEEF in its entirety now if you have a free afternoon. Most of the series’ 10 episodes fall between 30-35 minutes. I think it’s best viewed broken up over a couple of days. Long enough to let you feel all the emotions you need for our characters. But short enough, you’ll keep the momentum going from the moment of Amy and Danny’s first interaction.
BEEF is streaming on Netflix.