‘The Menu’ Serves Up Plenty Of Laughs & Thrills In This Fresh Dark Comedy – Review
It has been a while since we’ve had a smart, cohesive dark comedy, but the “three Michelin star-level” film The Menu is just that. Paired with an eclectic mix of actors, a stylish set design, and a rich story, The Menu is a must-see film for foodies and moviegoers alike. And as this movie unfolds, it becomes less about the extravagant dishes presented and more about the dangers of prestige, ego, capitalism, and privilege.
The Menu sets the table with assumed couple Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) waiting at the docks to attend a high-priced dinner on a private island with infamous celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Along for the ride are a collection of wealthy and/or famous individuals looking for the finest meal that money can offer. However, all that glitters isn’t gold, as this motley crew of restaurant attendees witness the avant-garde atrocities of chef Slowik.
One of the clear highlights of this film is how it satirizes fine dining, food critics, and cooking shows. Any fan of Top Chef, Chopped, or other popular cooking shows will catch on to the homage that The Menu pays to each of them. Another fun element of this film is the way it attacks your senses, similar to how any chef does with food. For starters, there’s a collection of unnerving handclaps, an immaculate presentation of fine cuisine, and the secondhand pain you feel from watching the cast experience it firsthand.
But the best component of the film comes from the annoying nature of the cast. They’re all pretty awful, save a few, but their terribleness also serves as comedic relief in different ways. You love to hate them and can’t stop watching their stories unfold.
Of course, you’re coming to watch The Menu for the twists and turns that this thriller provides, and there are plenty of them, but you might as well stay for how the film isn’t just about a deranged chef’s vendetta. It’s also an analysis of the lives of service workers and the lack of respect we provide them when we engage with them.
It’s something that many of us have borne witness to. But many haven’t seen that The Menu provides an inside look into the mental health decline of service workers within the orbit of the most pretentious of the upper class. Have no fear, as the film easily offers poetic justice for service workers within this film. The Menu also tackles gender roles, sex work, and office power dynamics, in addition to class, using social commentary as the vehicle that drives this movie.
Speaking of service workers, Hong Chau’s performance as Elsa, the hostess of chef Slowik’s restaurant, deserves praise for being equal parts alluring and menacing with each interaction she has with the rest of the cast. She pairs quite nicely with the film’s star, Taylor-Joy, who continues to deliver nuanced and ethereal performances. Additional shout-outs go to Janet McTeer and John Leguizamo for their roles as a pretentious food critic and post-prime actor, respectively.
While The Menu focuses on social commentary comedy as much as it does thrills, it never leaves you bored – just leaves you guessing at what will happen next. And while some moments may be predictable, the majority of the film isn’t. Not to mention, you’re just too wrapped up in the amusement of it all. This beautiful dish of a movie is refreshing, smart, and fun and best served in this dark comedy thriller fashion.