‘The Menu’ is one of those movies that makes you wonder how on Earth a concept like the one it features has never been made into a movie before. It’s such a simple concept yet it can go such a long way and the way director Mark Mylod decides to go about it is clever, thrilling and hilarious albeit slightly predictable. It’s a conventional movie that still manages to be playful with its audience. To put it simply, it doesn’t feed you its themes and messages with a spoon. The audience I was in had fun with it, just as I did with my friend and coming out of it, I felt it was one of the more enjoyable theatre experiences I’ve had so far this year. It’s the type of movie that knows exactly what it is, it’s mainstream enough for audiences while still regaining some of that high-concept nature that an A24 movie would carry. It’s destined to become a cult-classic, something in the same vein as ‘Clue‘ and at times even ‘American Psycho‘ with its wit, clever writing and hilarious dialogue.
major spoilers for ‘The Menu’ are featured in this review.
What’s quite hilarious about ‘The Menu’ is that ever since the pandemic, my family and I found that going to restaurants is a luxury we can live without so comparing how much we used to go to now, it’s been quite a while since I went to dine at a proper restaurant. I say this because watching or should I say experiencing ‘The Menu’ feels a lot like going to one. It’s incredibly memorable, the food in this analogy would be the demented actions that take place, you’re constantly waiting for something only here, you’re not looking at the waiters in hopes for your food but instead at Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy as they manoeuvre the suspense brilliantly for the entire runtime. There are so many great moments scattered throughout the script. Part of the reason why it’s so easy to remember and fun to watch is because of the fantastic casting. ‘The Menu’ very much feels like an actor’s movie with lots of improvisation and opportunity to play around and create great character moments. I can see this being turned into a fantastic Broadway musical, that’s how theatrical it felt. The main trio of actors are fantastic, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes and Nicholas Hoult bring so much emotion to this movie. Anya lights up the screen with this fierceness and rebellious nature that you can’t help but root for her. Nicholas Hoult’s comedic delivery is impeccable, but the real star of the movie is easily Fiennes, who is just incredible as Chef Slowik. His line delivery, subtle mannerisms and facial movement control is genuinely insane. The amount of intimidation, respect and genuine fear he evokes is palpable and he really does command the screen when he is in the shot. A true highlight of a performance in a movie that’s chockful of wonderful performances.
Similar to ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’, another humourous thriller this year, ‘The Menu’ also successfully manages to blend genres and tones very well. It executes it in a way that is more balanced and cohesive whereas ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ felt more confused about which tone to amplify more at times. Here, however, they go hand in hand, coming out at the perfect moment to elevate a scene in the best way possible. Considering how the movie rotates around this one group of characters mostly in the same room for nearly two hours, it’s impressive that it manages to be as captivating as it is. The concept of a chef inviting these wealthy snobs, pretentious food critics and know-it-alls to gradually degrade their identity, demean their social status and literally cook them alive as part of his sick twisted plan, it is executed almost perfectly. It’s entertaining and it keeps the suspense building up perfectly. However, the main driving force of the movie lies in the tension that Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy built with their characters. The back and forth was great, I love how Joy levels herself with Fiennes to create an equal playing field. It was compelling how they were two sides of the same coin. Deep down I think Chef Slowik loved having someone create that back and forth because it brought him out of the mundane routine and how do you kill a creative passion if not by challenging yourself? It was so simple yet clever to have Joy’s character think of basic restaurant rules and use them against Chef Slowik. Ordering one of Earth’s most renowned chefs to make you a cheeseburger? It’s iconic and it’s her ticket to leave and I love the fact that she took one look back and ran for her life. The smores symbolism at the end was very clever and it was quite hilarious that they all died in the end. What the movie does effectively however is that it almost makes you feel bad for Slowik whom you can see regain the joy of cooking for a minute when he makes that cheeseburger.
Overall, ‘The Menu’ while not doing anything extraordinary, is a perfectly entertaining thriller with great humour interwoven throughout. Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy make this movie what it is, I would go so far as to say they’re perfectly cast. While it suffers from an awkward first ten to fifteen minutes, once the central concept kicks in, it’s a blast to watch. It hits the perfect strike between mainstream and niche and for the most part, you will leave pretty satisfied.
‘The Menu’ is in cinemas now.