The Menu (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): They surely won’t forget this dinner, you know

You may have some ideas on what “The Menu” is going to serve, and it will occasionally surprise you as serving as much as you can expect. After all, this is a pungent satire on class and culinary business, and you will surely savor some dark fun and amusement as the movie cheerfully and ruthlessly pushes its story and characters toward more outrageousness and viciousness.

The setup of the story is quite familiar to the core. 12 people are invited to a tiny island where a renowned celebrity chef named Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) has run a small but prestigious restaurant, and almost everyone is curious about what Slowik is going to serve this time. After all, they pay no less than $1,250 per person just for their upcoming dinner, and Slowik will not disappoint them as a man who has been at the top of his field for years.

As they go to the island, we get to know a bit about each of Slowik’s latest customers. Besides two young people named Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), there are a middle-aged rich couple who turn out to be his most frequent customers; a trio of tech company executives who incidentally work for the owner of Slowik’s restaurant; an arrogant actor who is accompanied with his assistant; a notorious food critic and her editor; and a quiet old woman who turns out to be quite crucial for Slowik’s dinner plan.

While Tyler cannot help but become enthusiastic as your average gourmet, Margot, who is incidentally brought here unexpectedly at the last minute, is not so impressed to say the least as observing how others including Tyler are quite ridiculous about what they are going to get from Slowik – and how Slowik rigidly and fastidiously runs his staff members in his kitchen. He really wants everything served as exactly as he planned from the beginning to the end, and his staff members, led by his right-hand lady Elsa (Hong Chau), always follow his orders and instructions without any doubt or hesitation.

For not spoiling any of fun and entertainment for you, I now should be more careful about describing what is going to be served to Slowik’s guests, but I guess I can tell you that the screenplay by Seth and Reiss and Will Tracy has lots of morbid fun with how Slowick and his loyal staff members present each course of the dinner with unflappable seriousness. Some of the dishes served by them feel more like insults instead of real ones, and that is why Margo becomes more baffled and exasperated. Quite oblivious to the sheer ridiculousness of the situation, others including Tyler are willing to go along with that just because they want to have prestigious experiences to remember, and they surely expect to be full and satisfied at the end of the dinner.

Of course, things become much more serious around the middle point of the dinner, where Slowik gradually reveals the real purpose of his very special dinner time. Yes, he is indeed a crazy person, and he is quite determined to have all of his special customers go all the way to what is going to be a liberating finale for him, and his customers belatedly comes to realize what they unwittingly get themselves into.

As the most sensible person in the bunch, Margo emerges as someone we may care about, while the rest of her fellow customers become the delicious targets for more satire. Most of them deserve to get what Slowik and his staff members serve to them, and there are several very humorous moments involved with that infamous food critic, who still manages to find something to criticize from Slowick’s almost perfect dinner courses. In case of Tyler, we get to know more about how pathetic and obnoxious he really is, and Slowik surely has something to serve only for Tyler later in the story.

The movie steps back a bit around the last part of the dinner, but it is still held together well under director Mark Mylod’s competent direction, and Ralph Fiennes’ intense comic performance holds everything to the end. As intimidating and charismatic as required by his role, Fiennes delightfully delves into his character’s obsession and lunacy with gusto, and he also did a good job of generating some bitter pathos to his character while never asking for any pity or sympathy, especially during a certain impromptu cooking scene which may be appreciated a lot by Nicholas Cage’s chef hero in “Pig” (2021).

On the opposite, Anya Taylor-Joy, who has been one of new talented actresses to watch during last several years, is also fun to watch as her character instantly sees through the hypocrisy of others around her, and she is also surrounded by several notable performers who have each own moment to shine. While Nicholas Hoult is utterly hilarious as we observe more of his character’s unpleasant sides along the story, Janet McTeer, John Leguizamo, Reed Birney, and Judith Light are also solid in their respective supporting parts, and Hong Chau brings some extra creepiness with her character’s seemingly courteous attitude.

In conclusion, “The Menu” is an entertaining satire which will keep you on the edge in addition to making you chuckle a lot at times. Although it will not make you feel that hungry, you may come to appreciate to some degree that simple pleasure of eating a certain common dish, and I must confess that I willingly sought for that not after the movie was over. After all, simplicity always rules, doesn’t it?

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1 Response to The Menu (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): They surely won’t forget this dinner, you know

  1. Pingback: 10 movies of 2022 – and more: Part 2 | Seongyong's Private Place

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