The Menu

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Menu
dir Mark Mylod
scr Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
prd Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Betsy Koch, Katie Goodson, DanTram Nguyen, Zahra Phillips
with Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, Reed Birney, Arturo Castro, Aimee Carrero, Paul Adelstein, Rob Yang, Mark St Cyr
release US/UK 18.Nov.22
22/US Searchlight 1h46

hoult chau mcteer

42nd Shadows Awards
Hong Chau

london film fest

Is it streaming?

fiennes and taylor-joy
A vicious black comedy, this film strains to mix a parody of high-end dining with social commentary, but its dark approach holds the attention. This is largely due to whizzy direction from Mark Mylod and a first-rate cast that makes awful people engaging. For a film about the best food on the planet, nothing looks terribly appetising. And where the story goes might put some viewers off their dinner.
Heading to the exclusive island restaurant Hawthorn, Tyler (Hoult) is far too eager to worship the concoctions of top chef Slowik (Fiennes), while his last-minute date Margot (Taylor-Joy) finds all of this rather ridiculous. Their fellow diners are all uber-privileged, from a fading movie star (Leguizamo) and celebrity food critic (McTeer) to a power couple (Light and Birney) and arrogant business-bros (Castro, Yang and St Cyr). After a tour, the ominous host Elsa (Chau) leads them to their tables, and the lavish procession of food begins, with each course becoming more extreme than the last.
With a sinister smirk, Slowik urges the diners not to eat, but rather to taste. Tyler laps up each pompous aphorism (the wine descriptions are fabulous), while Margot quickly reveals herself as a cynical outsider. This rather clumsily sets up major conflicts going forward, revealing the flimsiness of the entire premise, especially as things turn very violent. But even as a fantasy pastiche, it's entertaining to laugh as pretentious wealthy people get their comeuppance.

As the plot turns rather ludicrously horrific, performances have a deadpan charm that makes even the most despicable character sympathetic. Fiennes balances Slowik's savage smugness by revealing his eerily yearning inner child. Hoult echoes this as a true believer who whole-heartedly embraces each absurdity. And Taylor-Joy shines as a smart young woman who has put herself in a corner and now wants out. Terrific side roles for the wonderful Leguizamo, McTeer and Light add spicy flavours. And as always, Chau steals the show.

The super-rich aren't exactly a difficult target for satire, nor is the rarified atmosphere of Michelin-starred cuisine. By taking such a broad approach, Mylod is only pretending to allow audiences into this world, playing to the more obvious stereotypes. But there are skilfully subtle touches stirred into each scene through writing, direction and acting that are witty and knowing in the cruelest ways possible. No one actually deserves what happens here, but there's a bleak satisfaction in imagining it like this.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 9.Nov.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall