A few weeks ago, we had the satire Triangle of Sadness, which depicted the rich and wealthy having a time on board a luxury yacht. Now we have The Menu, a perfect companion to the movie, as mentioned earlier, in which we have an exclusive restaurant for the super-rich, which turns out to be a nightmare. This is a very black comedy with a side order of horror, and while the target is easy, it’s an enjoyable twisty tale that is very satisfying on the palette.
Margot has been invited by foody obsessive Tyler to experience an evening like no other on a remote island in an exclusive restaurant run by Chef Slowik. A mix of customers is delivered by boat to sample a full menu of exquisite and expensive food with a touch of the theatrics. However, it soon becomes apparent that this is more than just a night of fine dining in which Margot is the odd person out.
The script of this biting satire has been around since 2019, when Emma Stone and Sideways director Alexander Payne were attached. Now the film, helmed by British TV director Mark Mylod, whose most recent work has been on the TV show Succession. Here he has delivered a handsome-looking film which, while never extending more to the fact that pretentious people will pay the earth to eat what can only be described as spit on a plate, he had delivered a film brimming with fun and some neat, if sometimes, predictable twists. However, you won’t find any spoilers here, as this would ruin your appetite for this delicious film.
We get a collection of characters who could be ticked off in the conventions of the modern rich and wealthy: the actor whose career is waning and who is hanging on desperately; the three young upstarts who work for a wealthy business and who think they can do whatever they please; the restaurant critic and her publicist who have the power to make or break and finally the regulars who come to eat just so they can brag about, even though there seems to be tension when they see Margot.
Finally, at the top of the tree is Chef Slowik, a man who is a stickler for detail, whose team of cooks seem to be in his complete control, who enjoys teasing each course with a story of how it was developed and whose mere presence is like a head teacher in a strict private school. A neat trick for the film is a screen card telling us the course and the meal, like an on-screen recipe card. Yet within the confines of this restaurant is something far more sinister that only Chef Slowik has the power to control.
The film playfully skips along at a sprightly pace and feels like an old-fashioned whodunnit, with Margot as the detective, even though there’s not much to detect. She becomes a focal point to the Chef’s increasing annoyance as she is brought along as a replacement for the woman Tyler was supposed to bring. A spanner in the works to an evening that has been meticulously planned as much as the menu. Mylod has pure enjoyment in teasing these characters and putting them through some gruelling scenes while at the same time never once taking it so far as to shock or disgust. The fun is that you have no idea where it’s heading.
The cast seems to be having a blast. John Leguizamo, always a pleasure to watch, relishes playing the fading movie star, who he claims was based on Steven Seagal. At the same time, Janet McTeer is great fun as the restaurant critic who has trouble being this side of pretentious. Nicholas Hoult is impressively nasty as the fanboy to the Chef, even though his nary skills are lacking, as proven in one of the more tense moments.
Anya Taylor-Joy is terrific as Margot, a woman out of place, not only as a member of this group of customers but even as a date to Hoult’s Tyler. We see everything happening through her eyes, and you know it’s not going to turn out pleasant. However, the film belongs to Ralph Fiennes as the all-powerful chef. He is oozing with menace while at the same time filling the screen with an almost pantomime villain that never goes too far. It’s a hugely entertaining performance and one of his finest.
The Menu isn’t the greatest movie ever made, but it’s certainly enjoyable in a darkly biting manner. It’s a film that may not linger too long in the memory, but while watching it, you will undoubtedly have a good time. It also might make you think about eating out a posh restaurant.
4 out of 5
Director: Mark Mylod
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Janet McTeer, John Leguizamo, Hong Chau, Paul Adelstein, Aimee Carrero, Reed Birney, Judith Light
Written by: Seth Reiss and Will Tracy
Running Time: 106 mins
Release date: 18th November 2022