The exploration of the stupidity within ultra-wealthy classes, and the near-comedic minimalism of high-end dining prevails in the Hollywood palette cleanser, “The Menu.” Directed by Mark Mylod, and starring an ensemble cast with Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, & more, “The Menu” follows a group of 12 strangers who find themselves trapped in an exclusive restaurant on a private island, and held captive by the staff and their leader, Chef Julian Slowick. Due to discussion of various details throughout this review, I’d like to caution readers with a spoiler alert.
It becomes apparent to viewers in the beginning of the film that the stories of the restaurant’s customers are heavily entwined, with Taylor-Joy’s character, Margot Mills, heavily eyeing the presence of an older gentleman and his wife, who is accompanying her and her apparent boyfriend, Tyler (played by Nicholas Hoult), to the restaurant. As the guests arrive on the lavish island, Hong Chau in her role of the chef’s right-hand woman greets the guests, and notes how every dish served in the restaurant is made of natural ingredients found on the island itself, making it completely self-sufficient from the outside world. What becomes striking to the guests is both hearing of the near-22-hour days of the devoted workers, as well as the extreme minimalist plates that are being served to the guests. The 12 customers are shocked when Chef Slowick, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, dishes each customer with a so-called bread plate, with only minute samples of various dipping sauces, but with no actual bread to taste with them. Slowick introduces each course through giving convoluted, artistic descriptions of his inspiration behind each dish, which further confuses the guests. Urgency onsets as the courses keep being dished out, the ties that bind each of the customers together are revealed, and the customers attempt to outsmart the devoted staff before any of them ends up becoming a part of the menu itself.
I am going to come right out and say it: go see this in theaters while you can. This film is a hidden gem in and of itself, and I found myself gawking at the screen during various points of the movie. Anya Taylor-Joy adds another great performance to her resume, backed by just-as-strong performances by both Hoult and Fiennes. The construction of the film was smart and built a strong impression that the film itself was the menu, creating close-ups of each food dish as it’s served to the guests, as well as announcing the commencement of each dinner course. The score, composed by Colin Stetson, was a standout, and added a lot of layers of mystery and urgency to the film’s overall vibe. Clocking in just north of an hour and a half, the pacing of this is great, and feels like an edge-of-your-seat genre of movie. This film began its theatrical release on November 18, so it’s expected to remain in theaters for a few more weeks through the holiday season.