After spending the last decade directing episodic television shows, Mark Mylod returns to narrative features in Searchlight Pictures, The Menu. Seth Reiss and Will Tracy penned the film's screenplay, which notably made an appearance on the annual Black List in 2019. The Black List is a survey showcasing the most popular films still in development. In addition, comedy giants Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are two of the film's producers.
Young couple Margot(Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) are among the chosen guests selected to travel to a remote island to eat at Hawthorne, an exclusive restaurant run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Other attendees include financial business partners Soren (Arturo Castro), Byrce (Rob Yang), and Dave (Mark St. Cyr), a rancorous married couple Anne (Judith Light) and Richard( Reed Birney), and pompous nameless movie star (John Leguizamo) and his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero). Also in the mix is a tyrannical critic whose accurate assessments have put restaurants out of business.
Chef Slowik has prepared a lavish molecular gastronomy menu where food gets the treatment of conceptual art. Unfortunately, his wealthy guests have yet to learn his approach to cuisine, has some shocking surprises in this culinary delight that may result in their final meal.
The Menu is a film you want to know little about as you must fully embrace the underlined commentary conveyed. Sitting in my press screener, how Chef Slowik runs his kitchen immediately brought the hit FOX Show Hell's Kitchen to mind. Furthermore, the reaction of Chef Slowik when diners send food back is very true to life.
Naturally, moviegoers will give the side eye as the layers get peeled back into the film's narrative. For example, there's a moment in the movie where the Chef informs the guests of his process. His recipes were influenced by his life and by the lives of his customers. He appears to have secret knowledge concerning them all and discloses his revelations over various meals. If that's not a red flag, then I don't know what it is.
The enigmatic Chef, Ralph Fiennes, speaks in a reassuring but frightening voice, looking at everyone intensely and with awareness. His character seems to be a mad scientist testing his guinea pigs while simultaneously acting like a haughty artist who says, "Taste," not eat, so much so that it seems he has forgotten what the food is. Despite not understanding why he is doing this, we accept it because it is a sensible proposal.
The rest of the supporting cast offers solid performances with one-liners. Two performances stood out the most through. Anna Taylor-Joy is also a solid presence with a unique, almost supernatural quality, watching in confused terror as events unfold. In contrast, as Tyler, Nicholas Hoult fully embraces the tool method as he reacts puzzlingly to the strange menus on the screen. When the final scene hits on the screen, audiences should realize The Menu serves unsettling scathing insight into social stratification and how some who are affluent are a sinkhole of unfulfilled yearning.
Final Grade: B
The Menu opens in theaters this Friday