Satirical thriller ‘The Menu’ brings food porn to the masses wrapped in a dark twisted and comedic six course meal
For some, eating is simply a way to satisfy hunger, meeting a basic human need but there’s an increasing section of society who see food as art and the chefs who create them as artists. That isn’t to say food shouldn’t be visually appealing, as psychologically that does contribute to the enjoyment of the meal. But the idea of food ‘fetishism’ is on the rise and can be seen in almost every element of society, People hardly sit down to eat these days without first taking a picture to share, currently making food the ultimate shared communal and social experience.
In ‘The Menu’, a group of strangers are invited to a secluded island to sample the latest exclusive menu from a world renown Chef and share an unforgettable dining experience. Ralph Fiennes stars as Chef Slowik, commanding his kitchen with the authority of a military officer and creating dishes which take pretentiousness to another level. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Margot, a young lady who attends this exclusive restaurant as Tyler’s (Nicholas Hoult) last minute replacement date, Margot was not mean to be there.
They travel to the beautiful, picturesque island with the other strangers all feeling quite special and important at having been invited to this expensive dining experience. Once there, things start off strange, move on to uncomfortable and with every course, descend further into something very distasteful.
‘The Menu’ is a deliciously dark and funny satirical thriller that takes aim directly at high-end food society. We get to poke fun at the pretentiousness of those with so much that having food isn’t enough. They must eat something regular people can afford, and it should be designed in such a way it could be considered ‘art’. This is in stark contrast to regular people, ‘the workers’ for whom, having a good meal can sometimes be considered is a luxury
Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a great performance as Margot, she represents us in the room as outsiders who doesn’t belong in this world, so she says what we are thinking, Expressing the ridiculousness of the situation that the rest of the guests seem oblivious to. Ralph Fiennes brings a quiet sinister intensity to the role as head Chef Slowik. Bringing the power and magnetism of a cult leader with his kitchen staff as his loyal followers. The other guests are a mixed bag as they all have their own stories to tell and reasons for being there, but some are more interesting than others.
The writing by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy is delightfully sharp and witty, allowing Chef to wax lyrical about his food love without the script feeling unnecessarily bloated. The direction from Mark Mylod is expertly handled, with the meals taking centre stage of course and luscious shots of food from every angle will leave you salivating and even a bit hungry, whatever your own food tastes.
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The director manages to carefully balance and maintain an air of mystery and suspense while also making sure all the comedic moments land well. It can be difficult sometimes to balance films like this, where the comedy may detract from the suspense or even seem out of place. But the balance here is perfect, with the comical moments and laughs sitting quite comfortably alongside the dark nature and sinister goings on. The film is unofficially split into six chapters by the six courses being served. Every course comes with its own disturbing story and comical captions which contribute beautifully to proceedings overall.
‘The Menu’ is not what I thought it would be. It felt like a bit like Dante’s inferno, a decent into the circles of hell where the lustful, greedy and deceitful will be punished. But done through the medium of food obsession and poking fun at some of societies elite. Those who not only obsess over having more than everyone else but also eating food perceived as too rich for common folk. There’s an underlying theme of those in the service industry being ‘enslaved’ unwilling participants in the food service chain and seeking freedom.
Having said that the film never feels too heavy or stuck trying to shove a message down our throats. The focus here is firmly on mystery, satire, and of course the food on show. It’s much funnier than I was expecting and delivers an enjoyable and deliciously wicked dark dish.
The Menu was the ‘secret film’ shown at the London Film Festival 2022 and goes on general release November 18th