November 9th, 2022
MOVIE: THE MENU
STARRING: ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, RALPH FIENNES, NICHOLAS HOULT, JOHN LEGUIZAMO
DIRECTED BY: MARK MYLOD
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
We are living in times of hate and anger. Sometimes you need a movie to express all that hate, a certain kind of vitriol, or catharsis to what we see daily on the news. That movie is The Menu, a dark satire of a personal dinner for wealthy people, being prepared by a world-class chef. It may seem like a simple premise and an idea that audiences could figure out from the start but to experience it is much more delicious. The Menu is a full meal, covering every inch of the plate with fierce commentary, and taking sharp bites about the society we all live in.
What should be greatly appreciated about The Menu is the harsh reality it walks us into. There is not a single character to earn our love or respect, an emptiness to the soul of the story that feels incredibly current with the moment, and still succeeds at shock value. It starts at a dock, with Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) chatting about what to expect when they arrive for a fancy dinner served by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), preparing a personal meal for his guests. Along for the dinner is a food critic (Janet McTeer), a movie star (John Leguizamo), a wealthy businessman (Reed Birney) with his wife (Judith Light), and three tech-bros (Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, and Mark St. Cyr). They are a collected group of privileged folk, ushered to their seats by Slowik’s assistant Elsa (Hong Chau with a mysteriously calm performance), and awaiting various courses of delectable decadence…or so they think.
From the trailers and a minimal amount of paths for The Menu to go, one could easily predict where the plot is headed. It’s the dynamics of what each character at the meal has to offer, from the self obsessed celebrity, the foodie that thinks they know everything about fine dining, the fractured marriage, and the mysterious woman that can see through all the bullshit. Standing at the front is the narcissistic chef- played wickedly once again by Fiennes- but this is a different kind of evil. His character has a bone to pick, an ax to grind but it’s driven by his pursuit of perfection, along with little care for who he crushes along the way. It makes The Menu a social experiment on a cinematic level. Boxing the characters into a room and wondering if the rich will eat one another, find a way to co-exist, or push a person down for their own survival. Watching it along the way is a sheer wicked delight.
It may sound morbid to find humor and joy in The Menu but that is also a motivation from longtime Succession director Mark Mylod. His work here is never wavering in the approach and goal. The set design is subtle and claustrophobic, as Hong Chau’s Elsa leads them to the guillotine, but never leading on to what is in store. The performances by Fiennes and Joy are equally sharp, as two actors maneuver themselves as respectable foes. It’s there in the script by Succession writer Will Tracy and comedy scribe Seth Reiss, who understand their actors in each role, allowing for comedic timing to land, but also constructing a real environment of toxic personalities. The Menu is undoubtedly a nihilistic view of humanity and the sad part is that there are zero lies detected.
And is it wrong to find truth or humor in the ice cold reality that hits in The Menu? That answer is no and the major factor that should be rewarded. This is a compact, less subtle sibling to a film such as Parasite, while also having the sharp bite of movies such as The Big Short, Hustlers, or Get Out– and cinema is better for them. There is a harsh reality that must be harnessed by audiences. The Menu is a wickedly delicious meal, serving up one of the best movies of 2022. Take a bite.
THE MENU IS IN THEATERS FRIDAY NOVEMBER 18TH, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady