The Menu Movie Review

In “The Menu,” director Mark Mylod takes aim at the extreme 1% and their obsession with the gourmet food world. With a sharp script by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, the film satirizes a specific kind of elitism prevalent among macho tech bros, snobby culture journalists, washed-up celebrities, and self-professed foodies. 

While the build-up to the main event is intriguing and the performances remain captivating, the film falls short in delivering a satisfying payoff. 

Nonetheless, “The Menu” shines in its technical prowess, leaving the audience visually and audibly entranced, despite leaving them a tad hungry for more.

The Gourmet Journey Begins

The story unfolds as an eclectic mix of characters embarks on a ferry to the secluded island of Hawthorne, home to the renowned Chef Slowik’s exclusive restaurant. Among them are Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a cynic reluctantly accompanying her culinary connoisseur date, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). Their chemistry and skillful banter make for engaging on-screen dynamics. 

John Leguizamo plays a once-popular actor accompanied by his beleaguered assistant, while three obnoxious tech dudes, a wealthy couple, and a prestigious food critic with her obsequious editor round out the diverse ensemble. 

Ralph Fiennes portrays Chef Slowik with a captivating blend of Zen-like calm and obsessive control, captivating the audience with his thunderous presence and authoritative demands.

Superb Performances and Missed Opportunities

While the performances overall are impressive, some characters receive less development than others. Reed Birney and Judith Light, portraying the wealthy couple, unfortunately suffer from underdevelopment. It’s disheartening to witness an actress of Light’s caliber left with minimal material. 

Conversely, Hong Chau shines as Chef Slowik’s right-hand woman, Elsa, commanding authority as she effortlessly tends to the guests’ needs while subtly judging them. Chau’s portrayal adds to the film’s rarefied ambiance, making her the true MVP of the ensemble cast.

A Tantalizing Journey Turned Sinister

The personalized treatment and tailored dishes initially seem thoughtful, catering to the guests’ desires and expectations. 

However, as the night progresses, the culinary experience takes a dark turn, evolving into something intrusive, sinister, and even violent. This twist cleverly captivates the viewers but leaves the diners terrified. 

Despite the film’s intention to shed light on the corruption caused by extreme wealth, it ultimately falls into heavy-handed and obvious messaging. The revelation that mind-boggling wealth corrupts people is hardly a groundbreaking revelation.

A Feast for the Senses

While “The Menu” may falter in its storytelling, it consistently excels as a visual and auditory spectacle. Peter Deming’s dreamy cinematography transforms the private island into an impossibly idyllic paradise. 

Ethan Tobman’s sleek and chic production design expertly sets the mood of understated luxury. Mylod’s inventive exploration of space, incorporating overhead shots of both food and the restaurant floor, keeps the audience visually engaged. 

The Altmanesque sound design immerses viewers with overlapping snippets of conversation, while Colin Stetson’s taunting and playful score enhances the film’s rhythm, steadily building tension.

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“The Menu” serves up a satirical critique of excessive elitism and the world of gourmet food. While the film’s performances and technical brilliance make for an enjoyable cinematic experience, the payoff falls short of expectations. 

The script’s heavy-handed messaging and underdeveloped characters detract from the overall impact. 

Nevertheless, the film’s visual allure, captivating performances by Taylor-Joy, Hoult, and Chau, and the technical mastery on display make “The Menu” a film worth indulging in, even if it leaves you craving a little more substance.

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