The Menu Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Ralph Fiennes gives the snobby foodie culture a ten-course meal, which won't be forgotten so fast! This restaurant thriller has some real bite!
Genre: Comedy / Horror / Thriller
Director: Mark Mylod
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo, Paul Adelstein, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Aimee Carrero & Judith Light.
Run Time: 107 min.
US Release: 18 November 2022
UK Release: 18 November 2022
German Release: 17 November 2022
Mark Mylod returns to directing a big-screen feature, after eleven years of absence, with this dark and witty foodie thriller. The trailers had me hooked immediately, not alone due to the fantastic-looking cast. The marketing campaign for Mylod’s newest movie ran a little late, shortly before release, however, I did hear only positive things from people that managed to catch a preview in different Fantasy Fests around the world. Now, finally being released on a global scale in theatres, I confirm that The Menu is not just good, it is among the most unique cinematic experiences I had. So let’s slice into my review.
When a young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, a shocking turn of events leads to an evening of potentially lethal culinary surprises.
Writer Will Tracey came up with the premise while dining during a honeymoon in the Norwegian Cornelius Sjømatrestaurant. He pitched his idea to fellow colleague Seth Reiss and both started working on a script. Alexander Payne was originally set to direct the film, yet after a year still in development, left the project due to scheduling conflicts. Mylod was hired as his replacement, starting to film in September last year.
There are a lot of rumours coursing around the net, so I just wanted to clear up that this is not a movie about cannibalism! The Menu is, however, an authentic culinary cinematic experience, as the director critiques the super-rich, in this over-the-top satire that focuses on the gourmet world. Granted, it is in no way subtle as it roasts pretentious snobs and elitists, who aren’t able to distinguish cod from halibut, without mercy. The tension, as well as the eerie atmosphere, are revealed as soon as the guests set foot on the remote Pacific Northwest island, where the restaurant is set.
It contains clear social commentary about class division, with the food industry used as a metaphorical setting. More to the point, Tracey and Reiss, manage to elegantly display the pompous arrogance of those people, as Chef Slowik sets out to unravel his master plan on those who wronged him. The fact that it mostly takes part in one setting, without ever losing its momentum, is a testament to the quality of the screenplay and its execution. That said, as brilliant as the plot was, it does feel heavily constructed.
The dialogue is brilliantly “bipolar”; On one side, it feels incredibly passionate when people talk about food; the way textures and aromas are described, makes one's mouth water. Then, there is the incredibly toxic, even self-loathing tone, when Slowik or his staff talk to their customers.
Ralph Fiennes gives one of his finest performances as Chef Slowik, a rockstar in the restaurant scene, who commands a whole troop of loyal underlings with his drill-sergeant appearance. The character is a perfectionist, checking every plate that goes out, observing every cook at his station. He long lost the understanding that food is to be enjoyed, as to him it is more about prestige and provenance. Fiennes absolutely steals the show, as he radiates an intimidating presence that changes the complete tone of the flick.
Anya Taylor-Joy replaced Emma Stone in the lead role of Margot, who needed to step down due to a conflicting schedule. Margot is the fish out of water; not only is she Tyler’s last-minute date but also doesn’t belong to the rest of the guests. She is the emotional anchor audiences can relate to, even if she can be incredibly vulgar at times. Anya Taylor-Joy nailed her persona, with her expressive eyes and bewildering look when the narrative unfolds.
Nicholas Hoult plays Tyler, a big foodie as well as a fan of Chef Slowik, star-struck the first moment he enters the cuisine. Once the plot progresses, it becomes glaringly obvious that there is something about that character, which sets him apart from the rest of the guests. He knows everything about food, yet could not cook to save his life. Hoult gave a wonderfully mysterious rendition.
The camera work is superb, focusing on the preparation of food, plus its composition of colours, which is set in contrast to the pristinely sterile setting of the restaurant. David Gelb, second unit director from Netflix’s Chef’s Table, was brought in as a consultant, to recreate his filming style for the documentary cooking show. The lighting, just like the colour grading, underlines the coldness of the script.
As explained before, the location is mostly kept in the restaurant, making for a very intimate setting, emphasising the premise. Then there is the food itself, which not only looks gorgeous but artistic. The costume design clearly sets apart the staff of the restaurant, wearing a sterile black/white combination, from the posh-looking guests, in their bordeaux red or dark blue attire. The effects look realistic, feeling mostly practical.
Verdict: This dark, cynical thriller, is a social critique of class division, especially mocking the skewed perception of the one-per cent. Using the restaurant scene as a metaphorical setting, the subject can be implemented to any other sector of the art or entertainment industry. However, this brutal and direct satire does not only mock the wealthy, it also condemns critics who abuse their power, as well as self-obsessed fans who seem to know better. The dialogue is colourfully rich, while the cast is impeccable. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult give a solid rendition as the quirky, uneven couple. The scene stealer is Ralph Fiennes, who gives the performance of a lifetime as the intimidating Chef Slowik. The cinematography captures the world of restaurants perfectly and the effects are practical. That said, it does feel a little improbable at times. The Menu is a brilliant flick, deserving an 8.0 out of 10.
Did you see The Menu? I can only recommend it! Leave a comment below to let me know what you thought. As always, thank you for reading!