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'Flux Gourmet' review: Unappetizing and undercooked

Courtesy of IFC Midnight


Boldly weird and grotesque in its own demented, satirical way, Peter Strickland’s “Flux Gourmet” could use a few more hours in the oven. An obvious send-up of our culture’s obsession with creating viral art and the corporations who fuel them, “Flux Gourmet” will certainly appease Strickland ride or dies eager to munch on the savory catharsis he simmers until a grueling boiling point is reached where you’re either along for the ride or grabbing the barf bag. Either way, it’s an undercooked and unappetizing journey that won’t convert any new fans. But knowing Strickland and his vibrant themes, that’s probably a moot point.

It features an ace ensemble who seem to have understood the assignment, but the script’s mundane rhythm doesn’t do them favors. “Flux Gourmet” dives into the concept of “sonic catering,” which involves using the sounds of food and cooking (the sizzling on the pans etc.) and making it performance art. Mind you, this takes place in an alternate reality where folks show up in droves to watch these performances (not far removed to what Cronenberg recently played with in “Crimes of the Future”) and a recluse, oddly mannered but inherently wealthy benefactor named Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie) funds the whole ordeal.

Stevens has an unhealthy fixation on sonic catering and in response creates what she calls a “culinary collective” that allows groups of individuals to explore the performance nature of food/art and makes them compete against each other in a winner take all showcase. Strickland keeps the focus on Billy Rubin (Asa Butterfield), Lamina Propria (Ariane Labed) with Elle di Elle (Fatma Mohamed) taking assertive charge of the three person “collective” while Stones (Greek actor Makis Papadimitriou), a down-on-his-luck journalist documents the entire ordeal. Stones also serves as kind of an omniscient narrator who is dealing with his own stomach issues, hiding burps and flatulence in plain sight, which is eventually used for a not so lavish presentation in the closing minutes. Again, keep that barf bag handy.

As someone who can generally appreciate a carefully calculated sense of humor, “Flux Gourmet” struggled to sway me. Strickland isn’t trying to shield his mischievous side and the way he flirts with culture clashes and bruising egos (a subplot involving another collective purposefully sabotaging Elle’s squad and their residence comes across unrealized and dilapidated) might be a welcome deconstruction of a group in need of a comeuppance, but the shade thrown, and the subtext comes across more bland than savory. Stick a fork in it.

Grade: C

FLUX GOURMET opens in select theaters and on-demand Friday, June 24th.


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