CINEMA REVIEW: THE MENU (2022)
Directed by Mark Mylod
Written by: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Produced by: Adam McKay, Betsy Koch, Will Ferrell
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Judith Light, John Leguizamo, etc.
Cinematography Peter Deming
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
I love cinema and films like The Menu (2022), as much as I love food and drink. Wow, some of the food shown on screen looked absolutely delicious, while some of it was that weird cuisine so gorged on by the pompous moneyed folk of this world. I must admit that I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. I have been an overeater and also overweight. I am a food addict, notably sugar and alcohol. I have attempted to control it with various dietary ventures. Low calorie, low carbohydrate, low sugar, running, gym, fasting, temperance and other (un)successful attempts at moderation have ensued. Presently, I am pretty fit from a cardio perspective, and twenty kilos lighter than I was ten years ago. But I could do much better.
I’ve always strived to eat healthily, but fine dining was never really for me. It was only when I met my wife eight years ago that I was introduced to gourmet dining and the dreaded tasting menu. Aside from the over-priced food, I just find those posh restaurants too pretentious for a working-class boy from Battersea. Yet, I would go out with my wife for a treat and eat at some wonderful restaurants in Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Cornwall, London and many more. Some were amazing and some I found were not really value for money. The personality cult of the celebrity chef continues to thrive also. Aside from enjoying Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares they’ve never really interested me. Yet, I was onboard while imbibing the skewered satire of The Menu (2022). Because it’s a sharply scripted horror film which comes to the boil slowly before delivering a killer set of courses throughout.
It’s best to experience The Menu (2022) without knowing too much. The surprises in the inventive script are a constant joy. The setting is an exclusive and expensive restaurant on a remote island called Hawthorne. The host, menu architect and epicurean is celebrity chef, Julian Slowik. Chef is portrayed with intense control and focus by Ralph Fiennes. Slowik finds himself worshipped by his kitchen acolytes, who adhere to his every demand. He is brilliant and to be feared, like many a charismatic cult leader before him. Eat your heart out, Gordon Ramsay.
Arriving by boat to the blighted isle are twelve restaurant-goers such as a team of rich finance guys, a once famous Hollywood actor (John Leguizamo) and his PA, a wealthy middle-aged couple, a food critic (Janet McTeer) and her yes-man assistant, plus the mis-matched couple, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). Tyler is a sycophantic fanboy of Slowik’s food and career, something that later comes to horrifying catharsis. Indeed, as well as the mysterious menu, many of the guests are harbouring a secret that this hell’s kitchen is more than prepared to burn.
Structured, unsurprisingly, around the courses of a tasting menu with titles separating each dish, the food delivered is both imaginative and beautifully presented. Margot’s character pushes back on what she considers to be both ostentatious and insubstantial food, much to Tyler’s annoyance. Their conflict intersperses the rising suspense that derives from Julian’s menu, which raises the stakes gradually, before events truly reach boiling point. In Slowik’s restaurant the customer is definitely NEVER right. Similar to Ready or Not (2019), The Menu (2022) is a fantastically twisted and funny genre film. Fiennes, Taylor-Joy, Hoult and Hong Chau are on terrific acting form. Further, the production design and cinematography make the visuals succulent and palatable. Ultimately, for those who love food, fear and vengeance, this film is certainly best served hot!