The Menu (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A young couple travel to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

My Take – Though they are at least a dozen films which provide great social commentary on class values and class systems, and satirize the rich and their incompetence, what immediately makes this latest stand apart is that it set in the world of haute cuisine, where rich people go to the most expensive place that deconstructs basic meals into senseless meals just for the sake of it. A place where the guests don’t exactly appreciate either the food or the staff, but are just there to show off their class and station in the society. Immediately making this one an exciting and wild viewing experience.

Working as a slow-cooked meal with a murderous kick, the film, written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and directed by Mark Mylod (Known for his work on the television series Succession and Shameless), is a hilariously wicked thriller, with a bloody and comedic twist, about the world of high-end restaurants, featuring a delightful cast led by Ralph Fiennes at his best, some gorgeous presentations, and delicious commentary on the service industry, class warfare, and consumerism.

While the whole set up and its transitions delightfully inches towards the horror genre, it will have you laughing while you balance on the edge of your seat as it navigates you through a restaurant experience to remember. As the courses get increasingly ridiculous such as a bread course with no bread, you’ll get hungrier watching the Chef and his team create course after course of culinary art. And if the haute cuisine doesn’t get you, a plot-significant cheeseburger absolutely will.

Yes, it has a few rough edges when it comes to the plot, and when you get down to the basics the premise isn’t necessarily groundbreaking and comes out rather unnecessarily too strongly, however, it cannot be denied that despite its simple failings the trio manage to strike a well-tuned balance between satire, comedy, and horror, a difficult feat to achieve.

The story follows Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman who joins as a last-minute date for rich foodie obsessive Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), who’s secured a seating at an exclusive restaurant called Hawthorne on a private island, that costs about $1200 per person, headed by the renowned Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Though Margot doesn’t care about the kind of food Chef Slowik serves, Tyler is obsessive about his work, and has been looking for the possibility of earning his attention and interest.

Joining them is a loathsome collection of the ultra-rich, including perhaps the world’s most pretentious food critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer) and her sycophantic editor Ted (Paul Adelstein), a washed-up comedy star George Díaz (John Leguizamo) and his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero), an older couple Richard Liebbrandt (Reed Birney) and Anne Liebbrandt (Judith Light), and a trio of finance bros Soren (Arturo Castro), Bryce (Rob Yang) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr).

With the group of twelve united by their desire to experience the very best. However, Slowik seems put off by Margot’s presence and, initially, it appears to be due to her indifference towards his carefully-crafted menu. But it becomes slowly clear that Slowik had an ulterior motive for assembling this particular batch of hateful diners and Margot just doesn’t fit into his plan.

How far Chef Slowik is willing to go, and what’s going on with Margot, make up most of the complications of the screenplay. Without a doubt, trying to guess what’s under the surface is one of the film’s bigger challenges, and one of its biggest joys, mostly because Chef Slowik is scripted and performed as a villain with a few sympathetic wrinkles, a man who courts empathy and evokes horror at the same time. As a result, the careful reveal of what that plan entails is the main part of the film’s devious joy.

It’s rare that you have no idea where a film is going, but once the film offers its first shock twist, it keeps you off-kilter throughout. Hawthorn’s tasting menu gets ever more sinister as it goes on, and yet you can’t look away. Of course, it helps that Mark Mylod‘s direction is excellent and gives the film enough visual style to match the pretentiousness of its characters and is really good at building tension.

Though not really a whodunit, there is an element of mystery for a good chunk of the film. More importantly, writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy relish in sprinkling the film with a healthy serving of social commentary about consumerism and class warfare. Here, director Mylod makes it a point to really close in on how each of the guests treats the staff in order to drive home how awful they are.

Sure, one could argue that the film doesn’t really have anything new to say about the themes it explores, namely the class divide. There’s a lot of surface-level obvious digs without much substance, but that doesn’t take away from how frequently funny the script is. Taking aim at extreme wealth and the extreme stupidity of high-end restaurant excess, writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy have plenty of fun mercilessly throwing rocks at low-hanging fruit in the first act, as mystery surrounds the specifics, and we have plenty of fun watching them fall to the ground one by one.

There are some fantastically ridiculous moments, such as the arrival of a breadless bread plate and Janet McTeer’s hilariously awful food critic basking in her own nonsensical wordplay. Unfortunately, some things don’t always add up. Unlike its open kitchen, the script leaves backstories and explanations mostly unexplored. We know what is happening, but not why, let alone how it was planned out.

Like the disconnect between Chef Slowik’s hatred of his guests and the level of their comparative crimes, some of which are far more personal and meaningful than others. The film’s contempt for arrogance and entitlement is straightforward and satisfying, but when other motives start driving the story, like Elsa’s jealousy over Margot or Chef Slowik’s rage over not having each of his dishes remembered, the revenge story struggles a bit.

Performance wise, Ralph Fiennes is terrific and wonderfully unhinged as the mysterious creator of the eponymous menu in a much layered role. Anya Taylor-Joy is a perfect audience surrogate amongst a sea of deliberately unlikable characters of which the best is Nicholas Hoult who is almost too good at making his character hilariously pathetic. Hong Chau and Janet McTeer also bring in memorable turns, and are well supported by John Leguizamo, Aimee Carrero, Paul Adelstein, Judith Light, Reed Birney, Arturo Castro, Rob Yang and Mark St. Cyr. On the whole, ‘The Menu’ is a tasty comedy horror that is thoroughly gripping, hilarious and satirical.

Directed –

Starring – Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult

Rated – R

Run Time – 106 minutes

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