18th Nov2022

‘The Menu’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, John Lequizamo, Reed Birney, Paul Adelstein, Aimee Carrero, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, Rob Yang | Written by Seth Reiss, Will Tracy | Directed by Mark Mylod

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy headline this blackly comic satire about an acclaimed chef who gives a group of pretentious diners their just desserts. Essentially, it’s a one-joke movie, but it’s such a beautifully delivered, carefully constructed joke that it deserves to be savoured.

The Menu opens on Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a self-described foodie who has forked out £1200 a head in order to attend an exclusive dining experience on a remote island, with a menu prepared by revered chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Tyler’s date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) does not share his enthusiasm for the culinary delights, but she’s come along for the ride anyway.

As Tyler and Margot board the boat to the island, they take note of their fellow diners: powerful food critic Lillian (Janet McTeer), whose unfavourable reviews can close restaurants; a fading movie star (John Leguizamo) and his long-suffering assistant (Aimee Carrero); a trio of obnoxious finance guys (Arturo Castro, Rob Yang, and Mark St. Cyr) and a shifty-looking husband (Reed Birney) and his wife (Judith Light). However, when the menu is revealed, it quickly becomes clear that the diners will be getting more than they bargained for.

Directed by Mark Mylod (who did 13 episodes of Succession) and co-written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, The Menu‘s sharply satirical script skewers its targets with relish, taking in everything from the pretentious excesses of haute cuisine cooking (Margot complains frequently that there’s nothing to actually eat) to slavish, unquestioning devotion to the hottest trends, to obscene entitlement and, let’s just say certain types of recognisable behaviour at high-end restaurants.

The performances are delicious in and of themselves. Fiennes has just the right level of cold intensity for Slowik, while Taylor-Joy makes a terrific foil for him, puncturing the pretentiousness with some perfectly timed comebacks. Similarly, Hoult is clearly enjoying himself as Tyler – one of the film’s best running gags involves him still eating while everything around him descends into chaos – and there’s yet another inspired turn from Hong Chau (following her role in The Whale) as Elsa, Slowik’s fiercely devoted front-of-house manager.

Mylod’s direction is assured throughout – he has a strong sense of pace and expertly handles both the escalation of events and an increasingly suspenseful atmosphere. To that end, there are plenty of surprises, even when you think you know where it’s all going.

On a similar note, the script is nicely structured, with the various menu items appearing on screen throughout, like chapter headings. The dialogue is great too, and there are plenty of richly layered side dish black jokes on the way to the all-consuming blow-out of the final course. It will also leave you feeling extremely hungry for one food item in particular, immediately afterwards. A triumph.

**** 4/5

The Menu is in cinemas from today, November 18th.


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