Have you ever dreamed at dining at an exclusive event with celebrities and influencers while meals are prepared for you by a world renowned chef? Well, ‘The Menu’ is that dream and nightmare fully realized.
Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult travel to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises that we won’t spoil here. The young couple are not the only ones that have been invited to partake in this lavish evening.
‘The Menu‘ answers the question what if instead of Willy Wonka owning a chocolate factory, he was a great chef that charged over $12K per visit.
The entire movie plays on entitlement along with political and social commentary that focuses on the disappearing of the middle class and how the establishment tried to separate us. While doing so, they get punished and called out. Each set of characters serve a purpose in the story. They are not just background characters. While each of them are great and each serve their part in the film, the main course is Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy. Two of the most subdued characters bring the story to life with a dash of flavor that includes mystery and intrigue with each scene.
While each of them have their faults, Anya Taylor-Joy’s, Margo, shines with magnetism and draws you. But more importantly she feels like one of us, the audience. She’s a cheeseburger type of gal. Not a black tie event. As the film slowly unravels you start to realize she might be the most normal person in the room. One of these things, are not like the other.
Now, onto Ralph Fiennes approach to Chef Slowik. He channels a stereotypical 5-star chef but you can tell something might not be quite right. He channels his inner Hannibal Lecter, in that, he brings intellectual sustenance to the table. The Chef feels like he could snap at any time but instead always stays even keel with a steady hand. An unflinching leader that his cooks and fellow chefs would follow to the grave. With a loud clap he can command a room and weave his words of dialogue like a poet to describe his food as a conceptual dish. It is truly a push and pull between Fiennes, Taylor-Joy and the attendees. Always giving you a little more to chew on with each dish served.
Back to the Willy Wonka reference because the chefs assisting Slowick feel like his Ompa Loompa’s and the guest feel like spoiled brats touring the chocolate factory. Except instead of winning the factory, they just get to keep their life and enjoy a nice meal. Loyal at all costs. The real standout is Hong Chau who plays Slowick’s assistant, Elsa. She channels Fiennes demeanor in such a way that it is a direct extension of his customary ways. When Slowick and Margo are not on screen she steals the show by running a tight ship. Not only with the staff but also cracking the whip on the attendees to fall in line with the experience they are creating.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the supporting cast is wonderful. Each are like a side dish of their own demise.Janet McTeer portrays a food critic with her lackey Paul Adelstein by her side agreeing with her every word. Legends Reed Birneyand Judith Light are all too familiar with Chef Slowick and have some dark secrets of their own that will come to light. While John Leguizamo plays a movie star (but not himself) and attends the dinner with his producer played byAimee Carrero. His character, like many of the others, are real assholes. When Leguizamo was asked if he referenced his character after someone in a press conference he was hesitant to respond. He then opened up rather quickly and said it was based on Steven Segal. Then Leguizamo referenced a time he was on set with the action star and how rude he was to everyone on set. The entitlement felt like the perfect person to channel when playing a self-absorbed movie star.
‘The Menu’ is an exquisitely creepy film with underlying tones of drama and just a pinch of dark comedy, it is a wholly satisfying main course.
Unfortunately, it only opened in theaters to a $9 million box office and honestly that is a shame, because it is worthy of your time and a fun original film that is part of a fantastic year of horror / genre films. I highly recommend you take it in during the Thanksgiving break.
REVIEW: ‘The Menu’ Serves up a Buffet of Characters in a Tasty Horror Thriller