A film that had me salivating in anticipation ever since its announcement was Mark Mylod’s newest, The Menu (2022). From its all-star cast to its dark, witty mystery presented in the trailer, everything about this movie appeared appetizing to my movie palette. After the busy horror months of September and October this year, I was afraid that, comparatively speaking, this horror-skewed dark comedy would end up stale and let me down. Fortunately, The Menu delivers a phenomenal story/mystery with fantastic performances, a flawless script, and a clever satire of the food competition genre that easily plants it in my Top 10 films of the year so far (I will try to keep food puns to a minimum).
The Menu (2022) follows a young couple, Margot (played by Anya Taylor Joy) and Tyler (played by Nicholas Hoult), as they venture to a secluded island to dine at an exclusive restaurant owned by well-renowned Chef Slowik (played by Ralph Fiennes). As the meal is served, the guests must decipher the clues to find out what the menu’s theme is. As each course arrives, they soon discover that the menu was catered to them, but not in the way they would hope.
The Menu is the perfect mix of Knives Out (2019) and Hell’s Kitchen (2005-present). The script for this movie blends great wit with its great mystery, combining great moments of laughter with genuine suspense. While on its surface it presents itself as a fantastically conceived dark comedy with a great mystery at its core, it also acts as a clever satire on two fronts: (1) the competitive food genre of reality television and its fanbase’s obsessive tendencies and (2) the approach of food for upper class citizens versus that of the working class. Borrowing thematic elements from The Exterminating Angel (1962) and Ratatouille (2007), screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy craft a brilliant and unique thrill ride that expertly serves up its satirical message without feeling over-indulgent within its dark comedy/horror sensibilities.
Other than its marvelous script and Mylod’s direction, the big take away from this entertaining feast is its ensemble cast. The auxiliary cast is fantastic with major standout performances from Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, John Leguizamo and Hong Chou who all steal every scene they are in. Judith Light is also a complete delight and does a great (and necessary) job at grounding the absurdity of all the upper class characters in the film into reality—her character is what gives a lot of verisimilitude to the rest of the over-the-top characters. While the entire ensemble is great, the standouts are by far and away the film’s leads: Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Fiennes, and Nicholas Hoult. All three of these actors are always captivating regardless of what project they’re in, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to be totally enthralled by their performances in this film. The way Hoult plays his character you are constantly going back and forth on whether you like him or absolutely loathe him, and he delivers a performance that will bring out a huge range of emotion for the audience. Anya Taylor Joy and Ralph Fiennes are the powerhouses they always are, and the nuance they bring their characters is what elevates this film to its “among the best of the year” status. This incredible group of characters will stay with you days after watching the film.
If I had any qualms with this film, it’s that the main mystery becomes very clear about half-way through and the eat the rich messaging is a bit heavy handed. That said, The Menu (2022) flawlessly executes all of its twists and reveals and does a great job of surprising you throughout the entire movie. Even though it does borrow ideas and thematic elements from other films, the script/story still feels incredibly original and inventive, and with it being led by Joy and Fiennes, it is a surefire good time. With its incredibly crafted script and its fantastic cast to bring it to the screen, The Menu plants itself as one of the most entertaining films of the year and will leave you craving a cheeseburger.
The Menu (2022) is rated R for strong/disturbing violent content, language throughout and some sexual references.
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