Your table is ready for The Menu, a black comedy horror film about a couple going to a destination restaurant on a remote island. They and a few exclusive guests taste the exquisite high-end dishes from celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) and are shocked to discover the horrors brewing underneath their wining and dining. The marketing advertises the film as painstakingly prepared and brilliantly executed. Fortunately, this is very much the truth, as this is an unpredictable, twisty thriller with a dark comedic edge.
The setup for the film is familiar. We have a group of characters who are all trapped in a dangerous situation and must try to survive. The movie offers a variety of people who all have different positions. We have food critics, food lovers, investors, an actor, and the protagonist Margot Mills (Anya Taylor-Joy), who accompanies her foodie date Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) to the restaurant. She is a surrogate for the audience, as she is not well-versed in the food and is simply there for a fancy dinner. Margot says what the audience thinks, and is an excellent contrast to Tyler, who is passionate about food and much more into the experience.
Director Mark Mylod helms the film with precision, creating a haunting atmosphere. The screenplay penned by Will Tracy and Seth Reiss gives him a lot of room to play with, as the chefs working in this restaurant bow down to every word that Julian says. As the film takes darker and darker turns, the story becomes more investing as it shocks you with the twists. This is a movie where you never know what will happen next because of a premise designed to keep you on your toes. The film’s game of cat and mouse is mind-blowing and sure to get your heart racing.
Fiennes is no stranger to playing villains after his time as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, but he delivers a different type of performance in this film. He manages to balance the line between subdued and menacing phenomenally, and he’s captivating to watch. Hoult is terrific at playing a character whose actions and behavior you despise, as is Hong Chau as Elsa, the maître d’ of the restaurant. Taylor-Joy continues a year of high-profile performances after The Northman and Amsterdam, and she elevates her material here. Margot has a few reveals surrounding her backstory, but none is enough to elevate her to a memorable protagonist. Taylor-Joy is charismatic and fun to watch in this role.
The secret ingredients that make The Menu such a tasty dish are the themes surrounding class and art. This film is a satire of elite, pretentious artists and the type of work they create. This concept explores the people dining in the restaurant and how they respond to the art, with some seeing artistic brilliance and others being confused by its significance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholders, as Tyler eats up every bit of what Julian sells while Margot wonders about the point of paying a large sum to receive a small portion of food.
The best sequence in The Menu is one where Tyler is asked to cook a dish from scratch. It is a well-crafted sequence that targets the critics who cannot create, and it works perfectly in the film. While the movie can lack believability and doesn’t always push things as far as it could, this is an exquisitely crafted film with a sense of humor that lingers throughout the entire movie. Much like an actual dish, this may not be for everyone, but it worked for me.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
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