If you’re reading a site like this one, odds are at one point in your life, you’ve gotten overly snobby and nerdy about something. Said something or acted so offensively pretentious about a film, album or other piece of art that you even offended yourself. If that’s something you can relate to, you’re really, really going to enjoy The Menu. You’ll probably enjoy it either way, frankly, but if you’ve ever dropped the deepest cut, annoying reference to make yourself sound smart, it’ll just add a whole other level of appreciation. The Menu is the ultimately middle finger to snobbery and modern social dynamics, told in a delightfully intense, hilarious way.
Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor-Joy (both soon to be of the Mad Max universe) star as Tyler and Margot, two of a select group of 12 people who have paid an exorbitant amount of money for a reservation at Hawthorne. Hawthorne is an award-winning restaurant located on its own private island whose head chef named Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) is largely considered the best in the world. From the very first second, Tyler’s obnoxious food vocabulary marks him, and really the film itself, as one that’s going to take its subject way, way too seriously. But that level of snobbery fits right in at Hawthorne, which has an almost disgusting amount of rules, customs, and a menu uniquely tailored to its specific clientele. It’s very detail oriented. Details that, in this case, begin to build to something grander and quite possibly sinister.
As director Mark Mylod (Succession) slowly begins to unravel the mystery of Slowik’s dinner, he does so in the style of the best, most high budget episode of Chef’s Table ever. We’re talking full on food porn, with the detailed descriptions, flavor profiles, elaborate reactions, and even on screen titles listing the dish names and ingredients. As a result, that level of comfort many people get from watching food television provides a stark juxtaposition to the increasingly intense, fucked up mystery.
And while we won’t reveal what specifically is afoot here (except to say it isn’t sci-fi, but is so messed up we made the executive decision to cover it on the site anyway), it’s deliciously (pun intended) satisfying. Slowik has a plan that ties in every person, dish, and detail all leading to a grand mission statement that doesn’t just put his patrons in danger, it turns the mirror on its audience itself.
The Menu is so critical of its characters, there was probably a danger it could itself turn overly pretentious and snobby like the world it’s poking fun at. Thankfully, the film is so slick and well acted, it never reaches that level. Hoult is an annoying ass, and you love him for it. Taylor-Joy is intense and commanding, and Ralph Fiennes is, well, he’s Ralph Fiennes. Add them to a supporting cast that includes John Leguizamo, Hong Chau, Rob Yang, Janet McTeer, and Judith Light, and you’ve got the perfect icing on this cake of this subversive dark comedy.
The Menu opens in theaters November 18.
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