The Menu is a story of a chef with ulterior motives. Renowned culinary master Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) resides on a private island with his kitchen staff. There they operate one of the most exclusive and expensive restaurants in the world. The small dining room seats only a selected few—those willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money to enjoy the tasting experience. On this particular occasion a motley crew has assembled. The guest list includes a snobby foodie (Nicholas Hoult), his nonplussed plus-one (Anya Taylor-Joy), and a washed-up actor (John Leguizamo). As the night unfolds, the patrons discover that they are part of a much more devious plan filled with revelations and peril.
What works in The Menu is the satire and the suspense. Director Mark Mylod (Game of Thrones, Succession) pairs brilliantly with writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy to deliver a blackened comedy that roasts a cross-section of modern diners. They provide scathing portrayals of people who are “the worst:” such as pretentious know-it-alls with self-proclaimed refined palates. Or those who feel entitled to whatever they demand because of their wealth. Or those who don’t appreciate the hard work done in a kitchen because of lazy ignorance. The filmmakers cast judgement on them all, and this is where the dark nature of The Menu comes into play. Taylor-Joy plays the audience surrogate who quickly surmises that there is something very off with the proceedings while the rest of the guests are oblivious—wrapped up in their own egos and selfishness. The question of just how dire the situation is morphs into a slow burn as Chef Slowik reveals his intentions. As such, the tension builds in a delicious fashion that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Audiences who don’t enjoy thrillers—or situations where people are endangered, trapped or hurt—may not enjoy The Menu as much as others. People should be warned that some horrific and disturbing events occur, and these instances are meant to be both jarring and unexpected. The sudden changes in tone could prove disturbing to those hoping to enjoy a drama about food. Also, The Menu doesn’t exactly have a character to root for. The closest thing to a protagonist is Taylor-Joy’s guest, but she’s more neutral than anything resembling a hero.
The Menu is not a comedy. This disclaimer is necessary as the Golden Globes are nearly here and both Fiennes and Taylor-Joy received acting nominations the Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy categories. This is absurd and baffling, even if they did give noteworthy performances. But it is enjoyable thanks to a sharp script and committed actors. The Menu won’t be for everyone, but what it does is quite well done.
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The Menu is available now on most digital streaming platforms.