Director Mark Mylod
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy
Scott’s Review #1,345
Reviewed February 20, 2023
The premise of The Menu (2022) immediately elicited my utmost pleasure. A self-proclaimed ‘foodie’ with a long way to go in being an expert, a film about a high-caliber restaurant with an extravagant and sophisticated tasting menu was impossible to ignore.
Throw in the horror and dark humor genres and you’ve got the icing on the cake.
After all, being fortunate enough to have experienced fine dining like in the film makes me repeatedly reminisce about those adventures. Those enchanted by such tasting menus rich with flavor and style must see The Menu.
Cinematically, the film reminds me of part Saw (2004), part Knives Out (2018), with a dash of novelist Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians story and a sprinkling of a Jordan Peele project for the social commentary.
A young couple Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) travels to a sunny coastal island to eat at an exclusive restaurant named Hawthorn, where the chef (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish menu.
They are joined by other guests including a food critic, her editor, wealthy regulars, three businessmen, a washed-up movie star and his assistant, and the chef’s alcoholic mother.
As the evening commences and the dishes are served the chef has some diabolical surprises in store for the guests. Secrets are soon revealed as it becomes apparent they have been summoned to the island for a reason.
Mark Mylod, a new director to me, peppers the film with dark, macabre humor, mostly related to the food, which is slyly placed and pairs well. Those who savor fine dining and tasty ingredients will smirk with delight.
The title and ingredients of each course are named and by the third course, the sins of the diners are revealed on tortilla shells for all to see. The audience knows they are not innocent people and the chef and his team are intent on punishing them a la carte style.
The revelation that Margot is not supposed to be there is satisfying because so far the chef, his assistant, and a guest have been eying her mysteriously. Tyler was originally scheduled to bring another woman with him.
Instead of limiting the story this only enhances it. Could Margot be convinced to align with the chef or does she hate him? Jealousy among the staff and guests quickly spirals out of control.
Another win for The Menu is the incorporation of class distinction. The haves and the have-nots and how they feel about each other is an important sidebar and easy to understand the motivations of the characters.
The Menu loses its way during the final thirty minutes with an unsatisfying and perplexing ending that hardly wraps the story up for the audience in a doggy bag.
I was left with more questions than answers regarding the plot.
The analysis can be somewhat forgiven with a deathly serving of s’mores for dessert with the bodies of the guests as the marshmallows and their heads mirroring the chocolate tops.
A laugh-out-loud moment occurs when a spoiled guest does not understand the difference in quality between cod and halibut. Every foodie should be aware of the superiority of halibut.
It’s not all polish and high cuisine as the preparation and consumption of a good old-fashioned greasy cheeseburger are made with such precision that I could nearly smell the wonderful indulgence.
The sizzling meat combined with the heavenly melted American cheese made me want to reach for the phone and order Grubhub.
Fiennes and Taylor-Joy are the standouts as their complex relationship and chemistry are palpable. Special notice must be given to Hung Chau, Judith Light, Janet McTeer, and John Leguizamo who make the ensemble quite good.
With a terrific idea and enough tastes and smells that almost emerge from the screen The Menu (2022) is a winner. It’s unsatisfying at the conclusion but the experience is enjoyable and the creativity is championed.
I felt like a restaurant guest myself.