Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, Paul Adelstein, Aimee Carrero, Janet McTeer, Rob Yang, Reed Birney, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, and Hong Chau
Director: Mark Mylod
Forgive the food pun, but The Menu is a delicious piece of cinema. The well-crafted story moves at a brisk pace, combining humour, tension, and suspense to create a truly unique film. Ralph Fiennes will deservedly be the most recognized performance, but this is a pure ensemble piece. Everyone has a specific part to play, and each is necessary to complete the puzzle of the film. It's truly a case of the story outdoing any one performance, thanks to the excellent script by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. A thoroughly enjoyable ride that, most importantly, sticks the landing.
Who wants some food wordplay!? The Menu is a dark and decadent experience made up of the finest ingredients and several surprises. The amuse-bouche sets up the entrée of the story perfectly, and the expertly prepared main course of Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy are well garnished by a number of complementary side dishes. My lone complaint is that the two-part dessert didn’t work for me entirely, with one part being to die for while the other felt a little half-baked. Still though, this is a meal that left me satisfied, wowed, and eager for more from Chef…err, director…Mark Mylod. It’s worthy of the hype.
The Menu is one of those movies that feels like it was cooked up specifically for me, as director Mark Mylod creates such a weirdly tense atmosphere that also has room for laughs somehow. You can tell instantly that something is off, and the slow build-up to the various reveals is super entertaining, not to mention that the entire cast, led wonderfully by Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, is fantastic. This is a very clever satire on class and fine dining culture that is a true feast to behold.
Going into The Menu knowing little-to-nothing about the plot enhanced the mystery of this meticulous and well-acted cat-and-mouse thriller. Every scene, word, and musical note felt as deliberate as the painstakingly curated menu that Ralph Fiennes’ Chef Julian Slowik put together for his exclusive guests. But like many fine dining restaurants that overcharge for two bites of “food,” you end up with a dazzling experience and an empty stomach. The film seemingly pulled its punches because there was certainly more fight to be had amongst these characters. Although surprising, intriguing, and darkly humorous, The Menu left me wanting more conflict within its deftly assembled story.
Yes, chef, I can attest that The Menu is deliciously good! This dark satire uses the cuisines it’s serving as a metaphor for high class privilege, which provides plenty of spice for its audience. The flavorful script is excellently directed by Mark Mylod, who elicits outstanding performances from Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. Some may walk away not completely satisfied from what is served, but I enjoyed every last bite. Plus, it keeps you on your toes because you never know what is possibly coming next.
There are a lot of things to like about The Menu: its stellar performances, its crackling script, and its horrifically beautiful (and occasionally funny) depictions of food and recipe cards. However, it does give off the feeling that it thinks it’s smarter than it actually is. Once one clocks the metaphor/message being played out, the themes of the movie continue to hit like a blunt-edged sledgehammer, refusing to let the audience interpret them with additional layers. That said, it is a deliciously fun time to have at the movies, even if I don’t think it’s the firecracker everyone else seems to think it is.
This film was reviewed by Nick, Quentin, and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.