'Fresh' review: Craving a sharp, stylish satire? Bon Appétit.

Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones appear in "Fresh" by Mimi Cave, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Editor's note: This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 28, 2022. It has been expanded and republished on the eve of the film's premiere on Hulu. "Fresh" begins streaming Mar. 4. 

When the title of "Fresh" pops up onscreen some 30-ish minutes into its expertly-paced runtime, the bold letters do exactly what they are meant to do: let the audience know that the movie has finally started. That might sound like a complaint, but it’s not. The opening act of director Mimi Cave’s assured, darkly comic debut feature immediately puts the viewer in the position of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

It’s honest storytelling and a fiendish trick all at once. After all, if you found yourself in the middle of a storybook meet-cute, wouldn’t you be suspicious too? And if you found yourself being suspicious, wouldn’t you wonder if you’re just being paranoid?


Fresh -- "FRESH" follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and acce

So, yes, "Fresh" takes its time getting started, but that time isn’t wasted. The first act allows the marvelous Daisy Edgar-Jones (Hulu’s "Normal People") to bring Noa to life. An unsatisfied singleton, Noa has grown weary of swiping left and right, having the same dull conversations with a parade of less than beguiling dudes. So when she has that precious grocery-store flirtation with the handsome but awkward Steve (Sebastian Stan), it's a development she approaches with equal parts disbelief and grudging hope.

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It's a blessing that Cave and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn give Jones the time she needs to let that conflict play out within Noa; those intertwined feelings of apprehension and excitement are key to the enormously appealing performance that anchors the film. It’s a turn that allows the audience to doubt and delight alongside Noa, so that when the penny finally drops, it’s as if we’ve all been duped together (but somehow knew it all along).


Fresh -- "FRESH" follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and acce

That’s due in part to the funny, unhinged performance of Stan, who operates in the Dan Stevens mode here, using his movie-star good looks and charm to make "Fresh" just that little bit weirder. Cave and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski ("Midsommar") take obvious delight in the big swings Stan is making as dreamy plastic surgeon Steve. 

While Noa anchors the emotional core of the story (and plays the straight man, so to speak), the visual language is all Steve; glossy and appealing and wrong. For a sense of the film’s tone, imagine the series "Hannibal" as a punchy, hip comedy, or "Phantom Thread" by way of "Ready or Not."

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In a perfect world, this review would say much more about "Fresh," from Jojo T. Gibbs’ terrific supporting turn as Noa’s BFF to the righteous soundtrack to the sharp-toothed sense of humor that never overwhelms Kahn’s emotionally rich screenplay. Alas, writing about "Fresh" without giving away its secrets is pretty much impossible, so let’s leave it at this: See it. Have fun.

And maybe don’t eat first. 


Fresh -- "FRESH" follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and – given her frustration with dating apps – takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and acce

Grade: B+.

Rated R. 114 minutes. Dir: Mimi Cave. Featuring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. GIbbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi. Distributed by Hulu/Searchlight Pictures. 

About the writer: Allison Shoemaker is a Chicago-based pop-culture critic and journalist. She is the author of "How TV Can Make You Smarter," and a member of the Television Critics Association and the Chicago Film Critics Association. She is also a producer and co-host for the Podlander Presents network of podcasts. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allisonshoe. Allison is a Tomatometer-approved Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes.

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