Friday, November 18

The Menu Review

The Menu
Dir: Mark Mylod
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Judith Light, Aimee Carrero, and John Leguizamo 
1h 46m

Search through the range of suggested videos on your social media platforms, and you are guaranteed to come across commentaries regarding the artistry of cuisine. The meticulously constructed, often decadent, combination of ingredients transformed into food unworthy of destruction with a fork and knife. Director Mark Mylod turns the cinematic lens onto highfalutin foodies with "The Menu," an entertaining and biting dark comedy about entitlement and food culture.  

New couple Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) wait impatiently for a boat that is transporting them to a private island for an exclusive dinner presented by the famed Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Other guests, who compose the top percentage of affluence, also wait in anticipation, mingling with their boastful opinions about the evening ahead of them. Upon arrival at the swanky kitchen, an obedient and highly-organized army of kitchen staff wait to serve a multi-course of curated cuisines.

Chef Slowik, who at the clap of his hands immediately receives a stand-at-attention and response of "Yes Chef" from his kitchen staff, has hand-picked the arrangement of menu items along with the specific group of guests in his dining room. No one is there by accident. The guests include a name-dropping movie star (John Leguizamo), a group of male social media influencers (Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, and Rob Yang), and a pretentious food critic (Janet McTeer), amongst other people who each occupy their own indulgent and arrogant place in society. Margot, who was added to the guest list at the last minute, is the exception. Chef Slowik has devious plans, and Margot has the potential to ruin his menu. 

Director Mark Mylod and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy craft a tight mystery seasoned with a pinch of horror movie influences. The story is a clever mix of dark comedy setups and a self-aware examination of modern food culture. Much humor is sprinkled throughout the story; the best jokes come at the peak of tension-fueled moments, at unexpected times when the film diverges momentarily down a darker path. However, it's never scary; the characters, with their loathsome mannerisms and cynical commentaries, dictate the sarcastic and comedic tone established throughout the film. 

It's hard to empathize with the guests in Chef Slowik's dining room. Each is obnoxious to various degrees of tolerability. The food critic imposes negative critiques after every bite. The movie star is more concerned with his fading status than the food in front of him. And Margot's date, Tyler, snaps pictures of every course even after being told it wasn't allowed. Except for Margot, who could care less about the food, everyone is terrible. 

At many moments Chef Slowik, the obvious villain of the film, garners the most sympathy. That's all because of the talents of Ralph Fiennes, who is no stranger to villainous roles. The actor’s sad eyes and uneasy mannerisms cut through the more powerful emotions of resentment and arrogance for the character. Fiennes's exceptional performance is a skillful balancing act. Anna Taylor-Joy is also great; her honest self-worth and confidence counter nicely against the other guests and the challenge of the demanding Chef. 

"The Menu," in moments, makes unnecessary narrative shifts for the sake of drama that stalls the otherwise tight pacing. But that rarely distracts from the fun the film is having. Supported by great performances and the entertaining use of dark comedy, "The Menu" is the best pick for a "dinner and a movie" night. 

Monte's Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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