Some persons are begging to be skewered like lamb shanks over scorching flames. At the least that’s director Mark Mylod’s absorb his darkish comedy The Menu, which takes goal on the nouveau riche, notably these with costly epicurean tastes. Truly, the movie targets a number of tiers of douchery, not simply the foodies: tech-bros, pompous celebrities, skilled critics (yikes), high-end traders, and spoiled ivy league brats who don’t know what a pupil mortgage is, are all thrown on the spit. In a single grisly night, these pantheons of mediocrity shall be served a meal they’ll always remember.
The film opens with twelve diners boarding a ferry which can take them to Hawthorne, an unique restaurant positioned on a personal island. Every buyer has paid $1,250 to savor the connoisseur delights of celeb Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), whose popularity as a real culinary artist is just exceeded by his anonymity. He’s like Howard Hughes with an apron.
Our entrance into this gastronomic universe is thru the doe-eyes of Margot (Anya Taylor-Pleasure), the final minute-date to meals elitist and man-child, Tyler (Nicolas Hoult). Whereas Margot appears blasé about the entire affair, Tyler can’t cease fidgeting since he’s about to satisfy certainly one of his heroes in Slowik; you’d suppose he was assembly Keith Richards. Different friends embrace a washed-up film star (John Leguizamo) and his petulant assistant (Aimee Carrero); a simpering meals author (Janet McTeer), whose malicious evaluations have murdered a number of culinary careers; a trio of expertise whiz children who suppose they’re on Spring Break (Rob Yang, Mark St. Cyr and Arturo Castro); and Hawthorne regulars (Judith Gentle and Reed Birney). Once they land on the 12-acre island, the diners are met by the top of workers and Slowik’s assistant (a daunting Hong Chau). She offers them a tour of the island’s pure magnificence, which offers the restaurant with its natural elements, to not point out a small barracks the place the workers sleep on cots like troopers going to struggle. These folks take meals significantly.
The majority of the movie takes place in Hawthorne’s eating room; a smooth, wood-paneled eating room that’s linked to the open kitchen the place the patrons can clearly see the workers work with robotic precision. After they sit down for the tasting, Slowik enters the area with the air of a dictator… or a serial killer. “Slowik isn’t just a chef,” Tyler gushes, “He’s a storyteller.” And so he’s. With a sinister, deliberate drawl, Slovik introduces every course with a backstory from his childhood that’s straight out of Grimm’s Fairytales. Meals is to not be eaten, he insists, it’s to be “savored.” If anybody interrupts these monologues, he glowers at them with frosty contempt. Fiennes hits all the precise notes enjoying Slovik with a calculated insanity that’s each hilarious and unnerving.
Taylor-Pleasure is equally hypnotic as Margot, the one buyer who doesn’t purchase into the affected pageantry of the place. She simply desires some actual meals, not the dabs of fish eggs and leaves they hold bringing her. Together with her expressive gaze, she’s an ideal avatar for the viewers as she reacts with a droll skepticism to all the luxurious nonsense. She induces the film’s largest laughs when she guffaws at phrases like “mouth really feel,” and reacts to her fellow patrons’ mannerisms, or just glares again at Slovik when he follows her to the restroom and asks what she’s doing there– she’s not part of the menu.
The primary act is a masterstroke in pacing, comedy, and suspense. Mylod and screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy ratchet up the stress whereas inducing some uncomfortable chuckles. Every time Slowik claps his fingers and serves a brand new course, the stress within the room escalates because the diners’ reactions develop in confusion. It’s an attractive ballet of darkish humor and anxiousness.
However as soon as the key is revealed and the stress breaks, the film begins to crumble. What began as a provocative satire with some attention-grabbing concepts concerning narcissism and societal hypocrisy devolves right into a collection of horror cliches. As an alternative of embellishing the Battle Royale points of the film by which a number of gamers try to flee the island, the filmmakers might’ve targeted on the story’s Agatha Christie-like qualities. The satire lies within the characters and the explanation they’re there within the first place, not knife fights and motion sequences.
The film serves a improbable appetizer but it surely leaves you hungering for extra, even when it delivers splendidly macabre moments and tops them with a surprisingly nihilistic ending. There’s additionally a memorable scene that includes essentially the most mouth-watering cheeseburger within the historical past of cinema (this critic rushed to In-N-Out the minute the credit began rolling). Even when the movie’s social commentary and satirical edge seems like a badly-tossed salad of concepts, its managed directing, fast pacing, and improbable performances present some flavorful textures and cinematic bites.