The Menu Review – A Satisfying Dish Served by Ralph Fiennes
The Menu is a full-course dish that serves you a variety of different flavours. But the best it serves is comedy, with a side dish of thriller and suspense. There’s also some gore here and there, too. Ralph Fiennes and Anna Taylor-Joy shine in this dark comedy horror film, however, it’s more of a thriller than a scary horror.
The Menu revolves around a young couple who go with a group of other people to an exclusive restaurant in Hawthorn Island. Anya Taylor-Joy (Margot) and Nicholas Hoult (Tyler) go by boat to a remote island with a group of other food aficionados. The group contains people ranging from a washed-out film star to a food critic and a magazine editor. They restaurant in question is owned by renowned celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes).
The 12-acre Hawthorn Island even houses the restaurant’s employees, such is the exclusivity of the whole thing. All the ingredients are harvested locally from the island itself, from the seafood to the vegetables. The restaurant only hosts 12 people per evening, which also comes at a cost of $1250 per head. It’s totally understandable when Margot asks Tyler if they’re going to be served a Rolex on their plates with that price tag.
The story is about Chef Slowik and him feeling trapped by the thing he genuinely loves doing. Cooking is his passion, but now he has to work tirelessly all day and night to cater to pretentious rich people who can afford to splurge thousands over a dinner. The night that we get to follow in the film sees Slowik’s guest list consist of Tyler, who calls himself a foodie, and is a big fan of the chef. He is so into it that he believes there is nothing wrong Slowik could do, every word he says or every morsel of food he serves must have a more profound meaning or concept attached to it. His new date Margot is not that impressed, but doesn’t mind tagging along for some good food.
Along with them, the other guests include popular food critic Lillian (Janet McTeer), who wields the power of the written word and can get restaurants shut down with just a bad review. Her magazine editor Ted (Paul Adelstein) is nothing but a yes-man for her. They are also joined by a famous film star who is now past his prime (John Leguizamo) along with his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero); Anne (Judith Light) and Richard (Reed Birney), a couple who are regulars at the restaurant; and business partners Bryce (Rob Yang), Dave (Mark St. Cyr), and Soren (Arturo Castro).
Slowik’s right-hand, Elsa (Hong Chau), is responsible for managing the guests and making sure they are comfortable. While they enjoy the meals presented to them along with what they assume to be theatrics and stagecraft, things soon take a turn for the worst. Elements of mystery keep you hooked as you try to figure out what’s going on.
The Menu shines in its originality and manages to subvert expectations. It juggles between comedy and keeping a serious and mysterious tone for the first half of the film really well. The film also provides social commentary on workers, the world of high-class restaurants, and social class. Even during its serious moments, the film manages to sneak in a few chuckles via the on-screen text explaining the fancy dishes. Performances by the cast – especially Fiennes, Taylor-Joy and Chau – are great and elevate the film, even if the third act of the film gets weaker and loses focus. The Menu is filmed beautifully, and should have your appetite satisfied.
The Menu is a funny but thrilling film that manages to keep a pleasing balance between the two. The film also offers critiques on societal issues that don’t come across as an attempt to impress. What’s impressive though is the entire cast, which make The Menu a fun time.
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