In The Menu, young couple, Margot and Tyler, head to a remote island where they have reservations at a fine dining restaurant called Hawthorne. The restaurant is overseen by celebrity chef, Julian Slowik, who promises a night of exquisite cuisine, with his dishes regarded as works of art.
Joining Margot and Tyler on their dining experience is a collection of other guests, including an actor, a food critic, and a trio of business men, amongst others. All of these guests are in attendance because they are aware of the skill of Chef Slowik, as well as the prestigious status of the restaurant.
As the guests arrive at Hawthorne, they take their seats and are treated to a selection of courses, each a little more decadent than the one that came before. Every course is also accompanied by a little introduction from Chef Slowik, and to begin with, the guests taste the food and pass comment on what they are being served.
But as the night continues, the guests discover there is something very unusual taking place at the restaurant, which could put their lives in danger. It would appear that Chef Slowik has prepared an unforgettable evening of hospitality, unlike any other, but unfortunately it is for all the wrong reasons.
Directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu stars Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and John Leguizamo. The movie is a horror-thriller, with lashings of black comedy, which is as deliciously exquisite as the food that appears throughout the movie.
Dark, twisted, and marvellously intoxicating, The Menu is a fabulous treat of a picture. It tempts you with its premise, stuffs you with suspense, and indulges you with its (slightly bonkers) finale.
The Menu is a movie that keeps you invested in its story throughout, even if you’re not sure whether to laugh or recoil in horror. It is superbly directed, features some excellent performances from its cast, including a brilliant turn from Fiennes, and it is playful, fun, and unnerving.
What makes this movie work so well is the way in which the story unfolds. In the film, the guests sit down to dinner, the courses are served up, and as each new dish is presented, the film takes the opportunity to increase the suspense and tension.
It does this through subtle moments here and there, such as a glass breaking, a dish being served without bread, an interrupted conversation, etc, and these little incidences all turn up the heat. These might seem like everyday trivial matters which occur in most restaurants, but the way they are unspooled in The Menu always them to hold some significance to the wider story.
As such, with each new incident, and each new course, the tension mounts and it becomes more and more apparent the guests are in danger. The audience knows it, the guests eventually do too, and the story continues to build and build, becoming more intriguing along the way.
As the story progresses there are discussions about the class system, and about the way in which money and prestige can drain the life out of art. The film also finds a moment to toss in a dash of blood (only a dash, mind), offer up a humorous chase sequence, and present some of the best-looking food this side of Instagram.
In fact, one of the significant elements of the movie is the way in which the food is presented, and what that presentation means about the people who intend to eat it. While the food looks good, the look means nothing if the appreciation and understanding isn’t there, and this adds further commentary about the value of the food and its relationship to those willing to shell out ridiculous amounts of money on microscopic morsels.
As mentioned above, Ralph Fiennes is excellent in The Menu, taking on the role of Chef Slowik, and he is one of the movie’s many highlights. I have no idea what Fiennes’ real-life cooking skills equate to, but he sold the heck out of being a culinary connoisseur on screen, as well as a somewhat unhinged individual.
Keeping up with Fiennes in the picture is Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays Margot – a guest who really shouldn’t be at the restaurant – and Taylor-Joy ensures her character remains cool and confident throughout. The actress continues to excel in every role she takes on, and this is another example of how much of a bankable talent she is.
As for the rest of the cast, Nicholas Hoult gets to ham it up as over-enthusiastic drip, Tyler, while John Leguizamo has a ball playing a name-dropping actor, whose career in crap movies overshadows his status. Then there is the rest of the film’s ensemble cast, which includes Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, and Aimee Carrero amongst others, and they all add to the picture.
Going into The Menu I didn’t know what to expect; yet I enjoyed what was on offer and came away more than satisfied. Director Mark Mylod’s ability to dish out the suspenseful story, keep all the plates spinning, and not over egg the pudding, ensures this movie hits the spot and I lapped it up!
Should you want to peruse The Menu for yourself (and I suggest you do), the movie is new to UK and US cinemas from today.