The moment that a hobby passes into an obsession it is fair game for the satire genre.
In The Menu, we find a darkly funny sendup of foodie culture that draws a clear line between those who consume and who provide. With a stellar cast giving razor-sharp performances that honor a bitingly clever script from Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, this is a feast for the eyes and mind.
Young couple Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) sail to a remote island to eat at Hawthorne, an expensive and exclusive restaurant run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), for a lavish menu of molecular gastronomy where food is experienced as conceptual art.
However, his approach to dining has some shockingly dangerous surprises for his well-heeled guests.
Even being billed as a technical horror movie, it is equally funny and terrifying. That said, some of the laughter is a nervous reaction to the many twists that appear as Slowik’s plans come into focus.
The acting is incredible, as Anya Taylor-Joy is the audience’s entry point, embodying every person whose eyes glaze over at the 17th listed ingredient in the teaspoon of food on a Tiffany plate.
Nicholas Hoult has shown significant range in comedy, and he plays a celebrity chef sycophant with fervor. Joy and Fiennes play off of each other wonderfully, with his interest in her holding a terrific tension with her suspicion. As usual, Hong Chau as maitre’d Elsa steals every scene that she is in, and remains a top-tier master of timing.
The food styling comes close to being its own character, with impeccable plates that almost seem worth the exorbitant price. Whether you are a Chef’s Table or a Without a Recipe fan, if you enjoy well-plated shots this film is a mouthwatering visual experience. The fine dining need for precision shows up not just on the plate, but in the actions of the kitchen staff who move with a military-level tightness in response to their fearless (and fearsome) leader.
The Menu feels familiar as it starts, but as the evening continues each revelation is the lifting of a deadly cloche.
The build is steady and rarely does a joke miss the mark, thanks to the Michelin star cast. If you are looking to feed all of your senses but cannot afford to roll the dice on a 4-figure mystery murder meal of your own, The Menu is an excellent way to taste the pretentious madness.
* * * * *
Produced by Adam McKay, Betsy Koch, Will Ferrell
Written by Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Directed by Mark Mylod
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult,
Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, John Leguizamo