Review: The Menu

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Title: The Menu
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mark Mylod
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins

What It Is: A mix of high-class elites embark on a trip to an exclusive high-end resturant, accessible only by ship. Tyler (Hoult) brings along his date Margot (Taylor-Joy) for the trip; others, such as food critics and a movie star (John Leguizamo) also attend. The customers arrive at the restaurant grounds, being led by the enigmatic host Elsa (Hong Chau). After a brisk tour, the guests are seated and the eating experience commences–with many surprises along the way, growing more personal, morbid, and violent as they are orchestrated by the joyless Chef Julian Slowik (Fiennes) and carried out by his committed employees.

What We Think: It appears as a film with many possible outcomes, keeping you guessing through most of its duration. Thankfully it doesn’t steer anywhere too silly or out of pocket, but rather is a story that lets its focus stay with the journey of its characters, constantly (and satisfyingly) pointing fingers at the id and ego of the upper classes who have nothing else to do other than gawk at out-there, avant-garde dishes, and the artists who are inclined to serve one unique experience after the other. As someone who happens to not procure too much fine dining and has very limited experiences in it, I found a lot of joy and humor at the self-aware cheekiness the film emboldens in the face of the ridiculousness of high society culture. Often you hear convoluted arguing, fluffly debates, and pretentious conversations between many of the characters; thankfully not to the point of being literally annoying to the viewer, but rather, actually hilarious. Keen writing saves the day, and the performances follow as well. I have to say I was a fan of every single actors’ delivery on this, with Taylor-Joy as the no-bullshit every man, to Fiennes playing one of my favorite recent characters of his (it’s really lovely to see him playing quite a different sort of character with the motives he has). All the side characters felt whole, and were really engaging and often hilarious to watch.

The story itself was solid, a tale that delivers tongue-in-cheek humor while being upfront in its critique of class and the elite’s desire to “experience,” without ever taking itself too seriously. For me, it was a perfect mix of tension when it needed to be tense, but not overdoing it in the face of being gracious towards the inherent clumsiness of humanity and art. The third act was really well wrapped-up too, keeping consistent with the rest of the tone and doesn’t

 Our Grade: B+, A delicious and darkly comedic thriller, The Menu serves us clean performances in a isolated setting, simply letting us observe a group of familiar yet genuinely entertaining characters as they stew in a pressure-cooker of a situation. The story come together perfectly as things fall apart; it’s not attempting to be your now-average pretentious, high-art, high-concept sort of ordeal, it’s a fun ride poking a lot of fun and a lot of holes into those sorts of projects, and I loved it.

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