A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

Director: Mark Mylod
Writers: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Staring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, John Leguizamo
Rated: R
Release Date: November 18, 2022

The Menu (2022) is an absolutely brilliant idea and concept. Director Mark Mylod combine with writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy to build a comedy, thriller, satire that thrives on atmosphere as its main course. A deep cast of characters combine for a stew of contentment and Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) stirs the pot till it broils over.

Chef Slowik is a eccentric and remarkably talented chef. He has set up a restaurant island isolated from everyone and everything. He ensures that the dinning experience is extremely custom for all of those lucky enough to get reservations.

The cast of characters are introduced as the bus girl and main waitress Else (Hong Chau) checks everyone in. We meet food critics Lillian (Janet McTeer) and Ted (Paul Adelstein), an aging movie star (John Leguizamo) and his tired agent Felicity (Aimee Carrero), an old married couple, and a trio of finance bros. Their check-in processes is easy enough, but then we get to Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). Giddy like a child, Tyler checks in with his new dating parter Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), and it becomes VERY apparent that she is not supposed to be there. She is an outlier. She doesn’t get the vibe of Chef Slowik’s gatekeeping food processing taste machine.

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) being scared by Chef (Ralph Fiennes)

As The Menu progresses, the truth about this custom meal is growing more and more sour in the mouths of Chef’s guests. Every course has a shock factor, starting as simply as there being literally only sauces on a plate, to multiple suicides, exposing of dark secrets and over-the-top dove falling from the sky death traps.

Did anyone see this coming? The Menu branded itself as a strange story and it lives up to that hype. if you don’t want any further spoilers about the story, then stop reading now, but from here on out it is going to be my rantings about both a very good but still disappointing movie viewing experience.

We are going to hop right into my biggest gripe. This is my blog, so I get to step on my soap box.

I do not understand why nearly every single one of the customers trapped in Chef Slowik’s kitchen agrees to be burned alive for dessert. We know that Margot gets away because she does not belong there. We know that Tyler hangs himself because he is embarrassed to the umpteenth degree, and that fits his character perfectly. However, when we get to Lillian, Ted, movie star, Richard, Anne or the finance bros…why exactly did they just sit in their chairs and burn to a crisp?

I know that Chef made it his point to attack their weaknesses and I know Chef made it his mission to make his attendees hate themselves. However, the bit of self regret accelerated to “Sure, I’ll be roasted” with the blue flame of Fast & The Furious nitrous. For the slow charring burn that was the majority of The Menu, it is like the final dish of this movie was rushed out of the kitchen without letting anyone cleanse their pallet and anticipate what is next.

If the ending was better, The Menu would have had a chance to be one of my favorite movies of the year, but I hate seeing the credits start and immediately having a feeling of “that’s it?”. It is like the story was widening my stomach to be stuffed to the brim, but I was only fed some dry kale to feed my appetite.

But now the good. Because despite my rant, I did really enjoy The Menu.

For one, Ralph Fiennes is just a delight. He is embracing his Lord Voldemort as the domineering quiet fear-inducing leader of obedient servants. Fiennes best asset as Chef Slowik is his lack of emotion. He does not break his stern, that is until the very end. Until the cheeseburger. That slight uptick of the edge of Chef’s lip is just enough of a cue to the audience that Margot has broken through the visage.

I am an Anya Taylor-Joy fan. She is quite good, but she is not the best at her dining table.

Nichols Hoult is wonderfully, astonishingly annoying as Tyler. The pretentious foodie who wants to desperately be part of the club makes the first unwanted ripple in Chef’s master plan when he brought Margot to the restaurant instead of his initial guest…his ex girlfriend. What a wonderful way to write in tension by screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy.

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) putting up with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult)

Nicholas Hoult has a way of playing these niche unique personality characters. This time around, I relate to his character’s over-the-top nature. Tyler’s desire to be taken seriously with his food taste and knowledge brings me back to not too long ago when I wanted my passion for movies to be respected and revered. I would pretend to understand everything. I would pretend to like things that I didn’t. There comes a point where you need to accept the fact that just because you are passionate does not mean you are on the upper echelon. You have to accept what you are and embrace that, because if everyone shared the same elevated tastes then it wouldn’t fun.

Now, I came to this realization by my self in due time and with much self reflection. I was not emasculated by my idol. If I met Robert Eggers of David Fincher and they told me that my love for movies was meaningless and i was a waste of space…well I would be pretty damn upset too.

Looking at the other characters in The Menu, I have to imagine that writing the parts for The Movie Star and the two food critics were a lot of fun for these satirical penmen. The people in Hollywood must have opinions of people who work in the industry themselves or who craft thoughts about it without thinking of consequences or actions. They are the people who raise their voices with reason to try and be heard. They love to hear themselves talk. In terms of The Menu specifically, I really enjoyed the how Ted just adheres to everything that Lillian says like a groveling dog. A coat tail rider is not a foreign concept in food or cinematic circles alike.

Before wrapping, we just have to talk about how good a fucking cheeseburger. That fact Margot asked for Chef to make that to reconnect with his love of food is perfect because there is no better meal that a perfect cheeseburger. A juicy, succulent, savory, tasty cheeseburger is heaven on earth, and I would be willing to bet that Chef Slowik’s burger is damn near perfect. As if I couldn’t love Anya Taylor-Joy any more, her character performs the perfect reverse Ratatouille on a horror movies biggest killer.

I love a fucking fantastic cheeseburger.

STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)

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