Entertaining Taste And Hilarious Texture
“I don’t like your food. ……………… I said I don’t like your food and I would like to send it back. You’ve taken the joy out of eating. Every dish you’ve served tonight has been some intellectual exercise rather than something you want to sit and enjoy. Even your hot dishes are cold. When I eat your food, it tastes like it was made with absolutely no love. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself. C’mon chef, I thought tonight was a night for hard home truths. This is one of them. You cook with obsession. You're a chef. Your sole purpose on this earth is to serve people the food they may actually enjoy and you have failed. You failed and you bored me and the worst part is……………. I’m still fucking hungry.
By the time Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) speaks these words with such disgust to Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), at least four people have died, another had his finger cut off and everyone’s scandalous secrets have been exposed. Needless to say, it was not a pleasurable dining experience for any of them. It was, however, a pleasurable cinematic experience for audiences. The Menu is a hilarious comedy that will leave you shaking your head with your eyes closed and your smile widening. The purpose of The Menu is solely for entertainment. This is not to say there aren’t moments that you can’t take seriously, it’s just more that you watch The Menu to laugh and enjoy. You’ll get your money’s worth.
Unable to dine solo as the policy of the restaurant, wealthy foodie Tyler (Nicholas Houlte) hires escort Margot to be his date for the evening to dine at Hawthorn, an exclusive high scale luxury restaurant on a private island run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik, his loyal maitre d Elsa (Hong Chau) and the rest of the chefs. Only the 1% can afford to dine at Hawthorn and all of the guests (Except Margot) are absolutely insufferable and have used their wealth to corrupt. Having uncovered all of their secrets and feeling ashamed of becoming part of an establishment that caters to those so selfish and ignores those at the bottom, Slowik and his staff state their intentions to serve multiple courses throughout the evening and at the end of the night, everyone will die.
Each course reveals something. Some of them expose multiple people at once. Secrets the guests want to keep buried are spray painted onto a tortilla that’s served to each of them. “What the hell are these?” a guest asks Elsa. “These are tortillas,” she says cheerfully. “Where did you get these?” The guest demands. “I’m sorry but Chef never reveals his recipes” Elsa replies. The delivery is absolute comic gold and it’s deliveries of lines such as this that make up The Menu.
Slowik rightfully senses that Margot is different from the others and offers her the choice to die with the staff instead of the guests but refuses to let her leave. Taylor-Joy always makes every character she plays someone audiences invest in, no matter the scale of the project. Margot is clever and of course, manages to turn the tables in the final act (Which includes a perfect and beyond-satisfying ending that couldn’t be funnier.) but Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of fear is just as real. Fear mixed with rage, betrayal, regret, and some hidden traumas.
Fiennes does a great job carrying out The Menu and the entire cast together really makes the film what it is but it’s Taylor-Joy, Chau, and Janet McTeer as one of the snobby guests that are the most memorable. Chau (Who really struck gold this year with her beautiful performance in The Whale) is breathlessly entertaining as Elsa. As the maitre d, she observes all events and takes part in everything at her own leisure. She makes the horrible guests so uncomfortable and she has so much fun doing it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want her job JUST for that one night.
McTeer portrays snotty food critic Lillian Bloom with the same snobbery that led Ozark’s cartel lawyer Helen Pierce to her demise - only with much more glee. “I honestly think this whole thing was for our benefit,” Lillian says happily to her editor as she eats her food after watching a man die in front of her, “and this (The food) is fantastic”. I don’t seem to recall Helen being dressed in marshmallows with a chocolate hat melting on her head in front of a boiling fire that makes the chocolate slide into her eyeballs but no matter.
Again, The Menu really isn’t a quality film. It's a film you can rely on whenever you want a hard laugh and get to see bad people get what they deserve. Unlike the guests, you’ll get your money’s worth. The Menu has an entertaining taste and a hilarious texture. You’ll be hungry when it’s over but not too hungry. Something tells me a simple well made cheeseburger and crinkle-cut fries will be just what you’ll crave.