The Menu is a masterfully crafted, pretentious, yet approachable, film that will leave a resonating aftertaste.
The holiday season brings a unique blend of films every year. There are tentpole blockbusters that are meant to draw in the abundance of people with more days off, holiday-based films that celebrate or parody the season, and movies getting smaller releases designed to win the prestigious film-industry-based awards. Searchlight Pictures’ The Menu seems to be all of that. There is the ensemble cast, the larger gathering over a celebrated meal, and pristine craftsmanship in all aspects of filmmaking. Yet, the film also seems to be making fun of all of it simultaneously.
The Menu is sure to be one of the most talked about films of the year, as a scathing reflection of society and simultaneously a resounding middle finger to the ones who think they’re above it.
The Menu is Set
Without giving away any major plot points and reveals, The Menu is about the world-renowned Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), who opened a restaurant on a private island where he and his team grow and cultivate all the ingredients for their eclectic menu. The isolation and care ensure the highest quality ingredients, and Slowik’s brilliance and world-class team craft some of the best-tasting food on the planet. Slowik is hosting a private event for a large selected group, where he has painstakingly crafted the menu for each guest in what is meant to be his magnum opus.
However, while it is Chef Slowik’s grand work, it is the last supper of the guests.
The guest list for Slowik’s dinner is a collection of famous, influential, and wealthy people who embody the worst stereotypes of the famous, influential, and wealthy. Vain, self-aggrandizing, shallow, the list goes on. But there is one person, who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the crowd, and that’s Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy). Margot is Tyler’s guest (Nicholas Hoult), who is a foodie to the extreme. To Tyler, the only art is the culinary arts, and Chef Slovik is God. Tyler’s original guest could not make it, so he brought Margot.
Chef Slovik designed the menu specifically for the guests invited, and since Margot is a substitution, he is unprepared for her, and she is unprepared for everything.
The Cast are the Key Ingredients
The story/plot of the film will be hit-and-miss for a lot of people. However, the performances are undeniable. Each guest, minus Margo, embodies a stereotype of a pretentiously upper-class socialite. It is a fair and apt depiction, but it is also a bit mean-spirited which works incredibly for the film. This isn’t to say Margot is above it all, but it does allow Taylor-Joy to provide perspective and balance for the audience. She gracefully reacts to the chaos and provides the audience with the hope they need to endure this tumultuous situation.
Her performance is heightened and elevated by both Hoult and Fiennes. Hoult, without giving too much away, plays a guy who absolutely sucks. Pretentious, condescending, demeaning, and completely out of touch. He is a douchebag ass hat to the umph degree. That being said, Hoult is undeniably fantastic in this part. He is a terrible person that gives you little glimmers of understanding that garner a bit of sympathy, that he immediately erases with some other (I can’t think of a better way to say it) bitch move. His bitchiness reflects Taylor-Joy’s performance and character that make for a wonderfully unlikable pair.
Then there’s Ralph Fiennes, who is obviously having too much fun. Fiennes thoroughly chews every scene he is in. He is despicable yet he commands the room, which commands the screen, which commands the theater. He will have the audience loathe and love him simultaneously as a tortured artist who is just trying to create and elevate his craft… But also be petty and exact revenge on his haters. Audiences may not agree, but they’ll get it.
The rest of the cast is also fantastic. John Leguizamo and Hong Chau in particular have some stand-out performances. Chau is terrifying. Her character is a devout underling of Chef Slowik and will not let anything derail the menu he has crafted. And Leguizamo, without giving too much away, channels the energy of being Under Siege and does his best to be Hard to Kill. I
It Might Be Hard to Swallow
Much like durian, The Menu is not for everyone. It is an undeniably well-crafted film audibly, visually, and performance-wise. The seamless combination of sights, sounds, and emotions is like that of a milkshake and fries. But it is definitely not for everyone. The film is dark and mean. It is not holding back on its social commentary or torturous violence. The degree of psychological manipulation in the film is at times hard to watch. At times, it is like the darkest thoughts a person has against someone who has wronged them were shot and filmed. Which might be a delight to some, but for many might be over the top.
The Menu Delivers
Regardless, The Menu fully delivers. It is a visual marvel that truly understands the culinary arts, scathingly comments on society, and evokes strong emotions all over the spectrum. In a very broad and bare perspective of what a movie-going experience should be, it is a masterclass of cinema that the audience cannot help but talk about after watching. However, it is an intensely dark story that many might not want to experience. However, if you have a slightly macabre sense of humor and strong anti-pretentious sentiments, The Menu is easily one of the best movies of the year. It is also one of the most unique and non-franchised films in a long time.
For the amazing performances, mouth-watering visuals, and deviously hilarious story, I give The Menu a 4/5.
The Menu is currently playing in theaters.
About The Menu
Release date: November 18, 2022 (USA)
Director: Mark Mylod
Music composed by: Colin Stetson
Production companies: Searchlight Pictures, Hyperobject Industries, Gary Sanchez Productions, Alienworx Productions
Screenplay: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Ralph Fiennes, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, Hong Chau
A couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) travels to a coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
Are you prepared for what’s on The Menu? What did the most expensive meal of your life cost you? Do you think there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to food price and taste? Let us know what you think and share your food pics with us on social media.