By Sneha Jaiswal (Twitter | Instagram)
What if Anton Ego from Ratatouille wasn’t a cynical food critic but a psychotic chef with a remote restaurant on an isolated island? That sounds like a believable elevator pitch for 2022 movie ‘The Menu’ starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and Ralph Fiennes.
Directed by Mark Mylod, the food-based thriller is written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and follows a couple’s bizarre dining experience at Chef Slowik’s (Fiennes) exclusive restaurant where an elaborate theatrical dinner is served to 12 guests, who realize they have signed up for something far more sinister than pretentious dishes. Hoult plays the annoyingly obsessive food enthusiast Tyler, the sorts who takes photos of his plate even when it’s prohibited. Anya is his unassuming date Margot and probably the only sane/normal person on the island.
I’ve never seen any food shows and do not follow food blogs/critics/podcasts or anything to do with the culinary world. But as someone aware of Gordon Ramsay and Hell’s Kitchen, ‘The Menu’ seemed inspired by chefs and cooking shows, taking a delightfully dark dig at those who consider themselves arbiters of taste. It also tastefully mocks the moronic pomposity of the privileged class. The story unfolds like an absurd satirical spread, but the writers feel the need to elucidate the weird proceedings and end up with explanations that aren’t wholly satisfactory. It’s a rare instance of a story where maybe not giving answers to all the ‘whys?’ that pop up in one’s head would’ve been more fun.
Visually, ‘The Menu’ is surprisingly simple/modern and not as avant-garde as a script like this can get. Slowik’s restaurant is minimalist and considering the kind of elaborate experience his staff provides to its niche clientele, the price for dinner doesn’t sound too steep. Maybe these little contradictions are deliberate. One cannot be sure.
Ralph Fiennes is near perfect as a mad chef, Hoult exceedingly irritating like the part demands and Anya Taylor-Joy a tad bit underwhelming as someone who doesn’t stand bullshit. Those in the support cast that leave an impression on you are Hong Chau as the creepy hostess who leads guests through the diabolic night and Janet McTeer as Vivienne, a snooty foot critic who spins ridiculous yarns about what she eats and casually ruins careers.
At 1 hour 47 minutes, the movie moves swiftly, never lingering or wasting viewer’s time. However, the climax doesn’t live up to the expectations set up by the main course in ‘The Menu’, it’s like having a fantastic dinner made forgettable by a mediocre dessert in the end. Maybe the ending is wild enough for a lot of viewers, however I was expecting something more shocking. Regardless, it’s a gripping watch!
It’s a 7.5/10 from me. Stream it on Disney Hotstar.
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