The Menu is a film that’s as exquisitely designed and prepared as the pompous and high-concept food in the movie. Directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu tells the story of a group of the rich and elite who find themselves eating what will be the last meal of their lives. Mylod’s background in television with shows like Succession has the director more than prepared to deal with the themes of this film.
Featuring the likes of Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicolas Hoult, and Ralph Fiennes, The Menu cares little to nothing about subtext. Moreover, the film revels in its in-your-face imagery and themes. The proactive nature of the movie, paired with its absurd tone, encourages viewers to revel in the non-stop comeuppance during the film’s runtime. The incredible performances and direction also make The Menu an interesting genre blend you don’t often see in the more significant tentpole releases.
While marketing would have you believe that The Menu is nothing but a tense thriller, the film is far from it. The lack of subtext makes The Menu as hilarious as it is. No intentions from any characters are in the background. Playing out as bluntly as possible, the script’s brutal honesty with itself and its characters make The Menu both thrilling and hilarious. With The Menu, you get the best script-to-screen translation possible, especially given the absurdity of the material.
Margot is the most down-to-earth of the elite group invited to the restaurant. She’s the only one (at first) to recognize the absurdity of the events in the film as they unfold. As always, Taylor-Joy brings charm and realness to her character that you can’t help but root for her. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Chef Slowik. Fiennes has what is probably the most crucial role in the film. If anything, it utilizes Fiennes better than any other movie in recent memory. Impeccable line delivery and comedic timing. have Fiennes constantly stealing the spotlight, making him the best part of The Menu.
The rest of the supporting cast only helps solidify the movie’s tone. Not since Knives Out has elitism, narcissism, and haughtiness been so well articulated on screen. The likes of John Leguizamo, Paul Adelstein, Janet McTeer, Arturo Castro, and Rob Yang help fill out the roles of the wealthy elite. Each snobby character gets time to shine if you could call second-hand embarrassment “time to shine”. Nicolas Hoult’s character is a perfect example of this.
The film plays out like a five-course meal. With each passing course, while there are moments of hilarity in the absurdness, it is equally thrilling. There are tense moments in The Menu because while the themes and message are very much in your face, viewers don’t know how far the film will go to get its message across. It’s a genuinely inspired structure that uses each meal to tell us something about the characters.
As the meal slowly descends into insanity, the film itself shifts into thriller territory. Viewers will begin to empathize with the privileged victims. However, just a second later, that empathy is taken away with their ignorant reactions to the absurd.
The score and editing, mixed with the pristine and sanitized cinematography, all tie together The Menu and its themes nicely. There’s a consistency to the film that matches Chef Slowik’s manic need to keep everything in line with the same recurrent theme. The Menu is a film that fully embraces its absurdity and is all the better for it.
By the insane conclusion, viewers are left in shock and awe of the five-course meal that just unfolded. Mylod channels his previous work on Succession into The Menu, what with the film also being a scathing satire on the elite. The result is a resounding success that shows how sometimes it’s better to lean into the absurdity of a concept. What’s most frightening about the movie is that as absurd as it gets, it’s a sometimes too accurate reflection of the class divide, criticism, and foodie culture. All with a delectable comedic twist. – Ernesto Valenzuela
The Menu Releases in Theaters on November 18, 2022
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