In a day an age where food has become an Instagram-able subject, why wouldn’t there be a movie that presented food in such a stylish fashion? The Menu takes that a step further with its satirical message. The movie takes what we know about fine dining, subverts your expectations, and invites you to a psychological experience. Everything from the sets, food, characters, and humor have all been crafted by design to create a façade that’s as pretentious as the clientele that would dine in an exclusive high-end restaurant. As Anna Taylor Joy’s character Margot says, “It’s Mount Bullshit,” but it’s served in a manner that is accessible to the masses like a cheeseburger.
The story is a slow burn that’s meant to be savored. The tension builds as the narrative unravels. All the while, each moment is packed with dark humor, characters who are the worst of the worst of high society, and the story ducks and weaves in ways that will leave you off balance if you try to guess what’s coming next.
The composition and cinematography in this movie are sublime. The food looks delicious even if the portions are meant for mice. The locations on the island itself are out of this world. The movie even makes the most out its mostly primary location the conjoined dining room and kitchen. Humor is injected after every course with a title card that offers the recipe in the snarkiest way possible.
The camera loves Taylor-Joy, but she shines when pitted against either Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) or Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). Fiennes is like the Soup Nazi except colder and more calculating, yet he possesses a dark sense of humor that Fiennes pulls off effortlessly. In moments away from the rest of the dinner guests, he even has a childlike demeanor as he pokes and prods the enigma that is Margot. And still, he can turn on a dime and yell at his guests like another famous chef: Gordon Ramsay. Hoult’s character has just as many facets. Taylor is like the sports superfan who is convinced he’s on the team despite not having any actual experience. Even his knowledge of Chef Slowik’s career and craft is irritable to the Chef himself. Slowik gets his revenge demeaning Tyler in one of the most satisfying scenes in a way that only a chef of Slowik’s stature can.
The other two characters that break out of the scenes they’re in are the food critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer) and her uncultured editor Ted (Paul Adelstein). Lillian comments on the chef’s whole operation with such pretentiousness, but what brings the whole schtick full circle are Ted’s comments. He delivers them in such a way that he’s trying to sound both confident and smart, yet it’s filled with a desperate yearning for Lillian’s approval. She corrects him every time, and he quickly succumbs to the word of his god Lillian.
The Menu is a must-see movie that transforms its story, characters and subject matter into a multi-course dinner conversation. At times it’s one part Midsommar, one part Falling Down, and one part The Invitation (2015), but all-around it’s a diabolical good time.
The Menu is available on streaming now, and will be released on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD on January 17, 2023.
The Big Comic Page was provided a copy of The Menu for this review.
Additional Comments: The Menu has a 17 minute behind the scenes featurette called Open Kitchen: A Look Inside the Menu that explores how the dishes were created and then all the work that needed to be done to dress up the dishes for their closeups.
There are three deleted scenes two of which expand on the smaller details such as Slowik’s background and the tour of the island. However, one scene extends the barrel sequence and adds to Margot and Slowik’s conflict. Though the scene is too combative for their cat and mouse dynamic especially considering how their story resolves.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511