The Menu is a gastronomic comedy thriller, now showing in cinemas, and brought to us by a team who have all served on HBO’s hit drama Succession. Poking fun at high-end restaurants alongside a tense plot, The Menu had me hooked until the final course, which was sadly a little bit undercooked.
The film follows twelve people as they head off to an exclusive restaurant on a private island, which has set them back a princely $1249 each. There’s Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a self-proclaimed foodie and die-hard fan along with his last-minute date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy); food critic Lilian (Janet McTeer) and her editor Ted (Paul Adelstein); washed-up film star George (John Leguizamo) and his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero), a group of tech business partners and a rich old couple who have visited the restaurant on numerous occasions.
On arriving the group are greeted by maître d’ Elsa (Hong Chau), who gives them a tour of the island before taking them to the restaurant, Hawthorne. They’re seated at tables in a small dining room, where guests have a full view of the chefs in the open kitchen. Head chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) greets the guests and commands their attention as he introduces each course as they are served by his staff. However, he shows irritation when informed of Margot’s last-minute attendance.
All but Margot find enjoyment and appreciation in the courses, while Margot sees nothing but pretentiousness and voices her disapproval over the likes of the breadless bread course. As the meal progresses, the courses and the Chef’s monologues become more and more sinister as the guest’s secrets are revealed during a taco course. Prevented from leaving, the guests panic as the meal turns to violence, while Chef attempts to discover Margot’s secrets before the final course.
I knew nothing about this film walking into it other than what was in the synopsis, so I really didn’t know what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised. This is an incredibly fun, smart and well-written film that definitely enjoys making fun of the rich and high-end restaurants. The undercurrents of tension and suspense had me hooked from the very start as the meal unfolded, and I couldn’t wait to see how it was all going to play out. I’m a huge fan of cooking shows and food, so I also loved the swipes and mockery of fancy gastronomy. The entire film looks good and I could genuinely see a restaurant and island like this actually existing. And I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to visit it!
It helps that the cast are all fantastic. Taylor-Joy is as likeable and dependable as always, Hoult seems to relish playing the arrogant foodie and Chau is downright scary as the straight-faced maître d’. Fiennes too puts in a great performance as the disillusioned chef, proving to be both sinister and charming and quite a hoot too as he’s ridiculously over the top.
Despite the promising start, The Menu does falter in the final act when it finally reveals Chef’s intentions. It’s very much a case of the plot revealing far too much, too soon. It becomes a little convoluted, especially when Margot and her secrets get involved, and for me, it really slowed down and felt lacking in the intrigue and tension that it had built up so well. This film would have been much better served had the Chef’s motives not been revealed until the very end. The final course is genius and hilarious, but the ending would have been much better had the big reveal been here instead of earlier. I also question some of the character’s actions towards the end as they don’t quite seem to make sense.
The Menu is a deliciously fun comedy thriller with a fantastic cast, however, the final act lets it down a little and leaves a slightly unsavoury after taste.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!