This assessment was first printed along with The Menu’s premiere on the 2022 Unbelievable Fest. It has been up to date and republished for the film’s theatrical launch.
Some of the-discussed film scenes of 2021 reads like an unplanned prequel to Mark Mylod’s black, bloody comedic thriller The Menu. In Michael Sarnoski’s Pig, chef-turned-backwoods-recluse Rob gently eviscerates the chef of a ritzy haute delicacies restaurant, who additionally occurs to be one in every of Rob’s former staff. In Rob’s view, the opposite chef betrayed himself when he deserted his dream of proudly owning an intimate, comfy pub, in favor of serving elaborately deconstructed meals to snobs who principally care about how a lot it prices. “Day-after-day, you get up and there’ll be much less of you,” Rob tells the chef, who appears devastated — however not like he disagrees. “You reside your life for them, they usually don’t even see you. You don’t even see your self.”
The Menu seems like the subsequent step in that story, if the hapless high-end chef had determined to show Rob’s revelation outward towards his clientele as an alternative of inward. The Menu mocks the sort of people that would eat at that restaurant Chef Rob despises, with its “emulsified scallops” and “foraged huckleberry foam, bathed within the smoke from Douglas fir cones.” Nevertheless it additionally finds somewhat humanity in them as properly. Some of the intriguing issues concerning the film is the way in which the filmmakers discover room to skewer each goal in sight.
Anya Taylor-Pleasure stars as Margot, a last-minute date for wealthy foodie obsessive Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), who’s secured a seating at an unique restaurant on a personal island, headed by the famend Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Margot doesn’t care concerning the form of meals Chef Slowik serves, akin to a number of artfully spaced blotches of sauce on a plate, billed as a cheeky “breadless bread course.” However Tyler is obsessive about Chef Slowik’s work, and the opportunity of incomes his consideration and curiosity. They’re an odd couple from the beginning, with an odd stress between them that means secrets and techniques ready to be revealed.
They aren’t the one ones with secrets and techniques. The opposite diners on this specific night embrace a smug meals critic (Janet McTeer) and her sycophantic editor (Paul Adelstein), a minor film star (John Leguizamo) and his assistant (Aimee Carrero), a trio of loud tech boors who begin the evening off by boasting about fraudulently expensing their dinner, and an older couple who really feel they could acknowledge Margot. Then there’s Chef Slowik, who’s deliberate a harmful “menu” for the night designed to deliver the secrets and techniques to gentle.
How far Chef Slowik is keen to go, and what’s happening with Margot, make up a lot of the problems in The Menu. In any other case, it would simply play out as a reasonably grim and acquainted revenge thriller geared toward some straightforward targets: wealthy, entitled, impolite, self-satisfied individuals. If there weren’t extra happening underneath the floor, The Menu would threat coming throughout as a elaborate model of a kind of teen slashers that’s extra about watching symbolically obnoxious, shallow younger individuals getting mown down by a killer.
As an alternative, Seth Reiss and Will Tracy’s script doles out the revelations with a cautious sense of pacing and escalation, preserving a stability of sympathies between victims and mastermind. They clearly don’t anticipate the viewers to completely throw in with the individuals paying $1,250 apiece for a minimalist dinner, principally for bragging rights concerning the expertise. They don’t depart their victims as ciphers, both. Margot naturally will get heart stage, and Taylor-Pleasure offers her a fierce, brittle “I’m completely over this nonsense” power that makes her a compelling protagonist. Hoult offers an equally sturdy efficiency as a person being pressured to return to phrases along with his personal pretensions in a very painful manner. However every character in flip will get somewhat stage time, together with Chef Slowik’s devoted assistant, Elsa (Hong Chau, recent off The Whale, however most memorable because the villain within the 2019 Watchmen sequence).
And Fiennes himself is a substantial asset, as standard. He directs the motion at his restaurant like a cult chief, places on a heat, benevolent face when it fits the story, then brings a ruthless type of chilly psychopathy to the desk for different scenes. Making an attempt to guess what’s underneath his floor is without doubt one of the film’s greater challenges, and one in every of its greatest joys, principally as a result of he’s scripted and carried out as a villain with a number of sympathetic wrinkles, a person who courts empathy and evokes horror on the similar time.
The Menu usually reads like an expansive model of a single-set play, the place a gaggle of individuals pressured into shut proximity progressively crack underneath stress and reveal new issues about themselves. A variety of what retains it going isn’t that stagey power, however the staging itself. manufacturing designer Ethan Tobman was impressed by every little thing from Luis Buñuel’s devastating 1962 movie The Exterminating Angel (one other movie about smug elites who can’t escape one another) to German expressionist structure. He and cinematographer Peter Deming give the movie a harsh, punishing chilliness that emphasizes each the shortage of consolation or heat in haute delicacies and the state of Chef Slowik’s thoughts. It’s an appropriately luxurious and sense-driven movie, with one thing putting to take a look at in each body.
The Menu doesn’t all the time add up, although. There’s an odd unwillingness to decide to the movie’s Grand Guignol potential, doubtless out of a want to maintain the forged round for the ultimate act. There’s a disconnect between Chef Slowik’s hatred of his friends and the extent of their comparative crimes, a few of that are much more private and significant than others. The movie’s contempt for conceitedness and entitlement is simple and satisfying, however when different motives begin driving the story, like Elsa’s jealousy over Margot or Chef Slowik’s rage over not having every of his dishes remembered, the revenge story curdles a bit.
Nonetheless, Reiss and Tracy’s willingness to implicate Chef Slowik alongside along with his useless, surface-obsessed plan offers The Menu some startling intrigue. Just like the pretentious chef Nicolas Cage calls out in Pig, Slowik engineered his personal downfall and his personal torment, and The Menu doesn’t let him off the hook by taking part in out as an easy eat-the-rich morality story. The humor on this film is generally delicate (notably within the hilariously wry course titles that seem on display), however it’s finally as a lot of a comedy as a horror-thriller. There’s some knuckle-biting stress as viewers wait to see the way it’ll all play out, however Mylod and the writers additionally recommend that it’s value chuckling somewhat at everybody concerned, whether or not they’re serving up fancy variations of mayhem or simply paying by the nostril for it.
The Menu is in theaters now.