The Menu review – a deliciously savage take on the fine dining scene

January 16, 2023 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
Lori C. 0
Film Reviews
4.5

Summary

Unhinged with its “eat the rich” metaphor, the film is dark and funny and the actors, particularly the leads, give top-notch performances. This is the type of film worth watching over and over again, only to peel apart more hidden layers each time.

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4.5

Summary

Unhinged with its “eat the rich” metaphor, the film is dark and funny and the actors, particularly the leads, give top-notch performances. This is the type of film worth watching over and over again, only to peel apart more hidden layers each time.


We review the film The Menu, which does not contain spoilers.

With A-listers like Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in lead roles, The Menu’s been making waves around the festival circuit since its premiere at TIFF last September. Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and based on the latter’s personal haute cuisine dining experience, the film was directed by Mark Mylod (known for his work on the likes of Succession and Game of Thrones). It follows a group of wealthy patrons who find themselves at the mercy of a world-class chef who’s finally had enough of his snobbish clientele. 

The Menu Review and Plot Summary

The Menu starts with food-enthusiast Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his date, Margot (Taylor-Joy), as they’re waiting for the boat to take them to a remote island where they’ll dine in a luxurious and exclusive restaurant run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Fiennes). While Tyler’s about to burst with excitement at the prospect of trying the chef’s food, Margot is repulsed at the cost of $1,250 per head. Other guests include a filthy rich older couple Richard and Anne Leibrandt (Reed Birney and Judith Light), a has-been movie star played by John Leguizamo and his assistant (Aimee Carrero), three young and morally bankrupt investors (Mark St. Cyr, Arturo Castro, and Rob Yang), and, lastly, pretentious food-critic Lilian (Janet McTeer) and her editor, Ted (Paul Adelstein). 

As they arrive at the remote island, Chef’s maître d’, Elsa, notes how Margot wasn’t on the original guest list, before giving everyone a tour of the location. We learn that all of the restaurant’s staff live and sleep in Barack-style accommodations. The cultish nature surrounding this mysterious culinary genius becomes apparent when Elsa takes offense at the suggestion of doing anything else with her life than constantly working for him. In the minimalist dining room, things seem off, but Margot is to be the only one noticing, while Tyler is enthralled with the food served. Chef Slowik serves his guests a breadboard without bread, tells them gruesome stories about stabbing his stepfather, and prints his guests’ secrets on fajita wraps. With every dish served, the night becomes more terrifying, and it soon becomes clear that Chef Slowik’s plans for the guests have little to do with their taste buds. 

The Menu is deliciously savage in its portrayal of a world-renowned chef that lost his passion for the craft after his cooking became little more than a way for the elite to show status. After years of catering exclusively to the wealthy, he decides to punish them for… well, for being wealthy and out of touch, while he is also wealthy and out of touch. There’s a beautiful hypocrisy in the way Chef Slowik acts superior to his guest, as he proves that he’s anything but. Ralph Fiennes plays the part of a deranged chef who’s been ingesting his own hype for too long to perfection. 

Each character is written as a mere caricatured version of the out-of-touch and it’s all too easy to agree with the punishment the chef and his team decide they deserve. The regulars, Richard and Anne don’t even pay attention to the meals they spend thousands to ingest. The washed-out actor is, just like Chef Slowik, an artist who sold his talent for money. Lilian, the food critic, used her sense of self-importance to raise some chefs to the top while destroying others’ livelihoods. The three young investors work for the company that now owns Slowik’s restaurant. And then there’s Tyler whose fanaticism ultimately takes all the joy out of eating. He’s just too obsessed with understanding the “how” instead of enjoying the art for its own sake. 

As it’s impossible to like or care for any of the guests, the audience is left with girl-next-door Margot portrayed perfectly by Anya Taylor-Joy. She’s Tyler’s date and the only one who sees the absurdity behind this fancy meal no everyday human could afford, making her the only character left for the average viewer to relate to. Margot, however, is a sex worker. Next to the cult-leader chef and his extremely privileged guests, the prostitute becomes the only morally sound character and the one person audiences can root for. That says a lot, not just about the overpriced fine dining industry, but also about the society we all partake in. 

Is the movie The Menu good?

There’s a lot to like about The Menu. Unhinged with its “eat the rich” metaphor, the film is dark and funny and the actors, particularly the leads, give top-notch performances. This is the type of film worth watching over and over again, only to peel apart more hidden layers each time. 

What did you think of the film The Menu? Comment below.

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