The Menu Movie Review
The Menu Movie Review Metadata
You’ve heard of the micro-gastro experience where the dishes are reduced to foam, smoke, and vague aesthetics, and if you’re lucky, you’ve never paid black-market organ prices to experience one. I don’t run in those circles, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the strange twists and unexpected plot points of The Menu (2022).
Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. Maybe I mean “relish” or “emotionally possess.” I mean, enjoy is such a pedestrian word, especially in the company of World Class Chef, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), who has prepared for his handpicked guests a lavish evening of culinary adventures, the likes of which they will never experience again. Chef Slowik runs the exclusive Hawthorn, a restaurant on his private island where he and his staff live and work. Everything Hawthorn serves is sourced in this microcosm, and his staff is psychotically devoted, especially his maître d’, Elsa (Hong Chau). Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his last-minute date, Margo (Anya Taylor-Joy) join a celebrity (John Leguizamo), a restaurant critic (Janet McTeer), three venture capitalist bros (Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr), and a frequent guest (Reed Birney) and his wife (Judith Light) for an evening of storytelling through several courses of exciting and terrifying surprises. They all have secrets, of course, and no one is safe.
One snag to the festive affair where everything has been planned down to the most minute detail – an unexpected guest who not only finds the entire exercise of reductions and breadless bread courses ridiculous but as a wild card, threatens to throw Slowik’s entire evening into chaos – and I mean more chaotic than The Menu already promises to be.
Every section of the evening is broken out like an ordered menu from the amuse bouche (cucumber melon, milk snow, and charred lace) that lively little palette tickler that awakens the tastebuds to the dessert course of s’mores that brings the evening to a blistering end.
Writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy balance the dread of new, if empty, experiences with pretentious people who live to tear down, ignore, or scam. These are the people who believe the height of their wealth and greatness is eating food that isn’t food and paying a lot for it. Reiss and Tracy give each character several reasons to be despised and not many to be redeemed. In that sense, it’s like a traditional horror movie, a gathering of characters you wouldn’t mind spending a few hours watching die. What makes The Menu feel less like a traditional horror is a stellar cast of Fiennes, Taylor-Joy, and Light, along with the biting satire that floats as dry as a leaf in autumn. It’s darkly funny even when you’re gasping as you’re giggling. This is not your typical slasher and no cats will jump from out-of-frame shelves, but it is still startling, terrifying, and worthy of multiple viewings.
Searchlight Pictures is no stranger to stealthy horror, like Fresh (2022), The Night House (2021), and One Hour Photo (2002). The Menu is a smart, sharp full-course encounter that may not leave you full, but you will be satisfied.
The Menu (2022) is rated R for swears, people getting stabbed, losing digits, drowned, as well as charred, carved, and chased.