Directed by: Mark Mylod

Written by: Seth Reiss & Will Tracy

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney

Rating: [4/5]

Food serves as a necessity and can satisfy in the simplest of ways where you can boil an egg and receive the nutrition you need. However, as proven throughout history, as humans we love to take even the simplest of things and make them exclusive to the degree of absurdity. The Menu seeks to poke fun at this in the world of fine dining and with its biting criticism and overall message of a film, it proves to be quite the tasty meal. 

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) is on a date with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) to an ultra-exclusive restaurant named Hawthorn led by world-famous chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). While there they are meant to experience a dining experience like no other and they certainly receive that but not in the way they were expecting. 

The world of fine dining often receives ridicule for how they charge exorbitant prices for food items that tend to be microscopic and not what the average person wants to eat. It creates this sense of elitism for those who get it and those who would rather just eat a cheeseburger at their local fast food joint. This film very much enjoys poking fun at this more elitist view of fine dining, but what it does conceptually as a film as a whole and relaying it to its theme is what uncovers the brilliance at the center. 

Throughout the dining experience you have Tyler, who is on the verge of being obsessed with the Chef and what he represents to a hilarious degree. A character Nicholas Hoult knows how to play so well. Incredibly smarmy and delusional, which makes what he says when utter chaos surrounds him even funnier. That man came for the experience of a lifetime and was not going to let it go by him without getting the full experience. Then you have others there like the food critic who spends most of the time speaking in technical terms about the food whereas the majority of individuals would just say it tastes good. I certainly felt attacked at that moment as someone who writes reviews about films where the majority of the moviegoing public just cares if they enjoyed the films and none of the fancy details. In a sense, this film invites analysis while also slapping you on the head as to why the story needs to be analyzed for deeper themes in a way that did not hit me right away but comes together in such a fulfilling way. 

As promised through the marketing, things in this film get strange and violent as the dining experience turns into a nightmare, which goes to show the true colors of the patrons. Individuals who are there just to say they did for the exclusivity or to flex their finances. The film, as a result, punishes them for their vapidness and it occurs hilariously through the performance of Hong Chau as Elsa. When it came to the interactions she had with the table of finance bros, it probably fulfilled the fantasy of thousands of waiters who have had to deal with customers like them in the past. Telling them no and not caring one bit about whatever power they have was something quite special. Her pronunciation of the word “tortilla” alone will stick with me for the rest of my days, it’s that funny. 

With the narrative continuing to unfold, the fun this film provides comes from trying to figure out exactly what will happen next and what could the eventual end goal be. There has to be some reason for all of this to be occurring or at the very least the film would want you to think that, which contributes to this being such a tasty treat of a film. It zigs when you expect it to zag and moments where what seems unbelievable enters the realm of reality in a shocking way. So many one-liners land so hard that made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions. One moment, in particular, where a character asks why they’ve been placed in this horrific circumstance and it reveals where they went to school has absolutely hilarious in the execution and delivery. This film is filled with several moments like this. 

In a year filled with films aimed at “eating the rich,” The Menu proved to be the sharpest because of its precision in its criticisms and how it works on multiple levels. It presents a situation where low-hanging fruit jokes could have been made but the film proved to be much smarter in how it wants to punish these rich individuals. It brings together a strong cast of actors who deliver in creating a group of scared individuals who find themselves in this horrid situation. Endlessly entertaining and more nuanced in its presentation than one could expect, this film satisfied all of my cravings and left me full.

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