The Menu Review

  • March 2, 2023

By Pierce Hudson

[Chef Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his team of chefs delicately preparing a course / Image courtesy of The New York Times.]

“Eat the rich” could not be more fitting for this satirical thriller with its massive focus on food and wealth. Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, and directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu serves up an excellent course of both terror and hilarity. It delivers an over-the-top critique of the pretentious and snobby top 1%, the perfectionism of the cooking elite, and the hypocritical judgment of the reviewing world intertwined with sarcastic jokes and an authentic portrayal of ridiculous caricatures. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the prestigious chef and owner of the restaurant with Hong Chau as his assistant, we follow the dinner date of Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). The Menu takes us on a ride of suspense as our characters uncover what this philosophical but deadly dinner has to offer.

The Menu takes on a common theme about capitalism but spins the repetitive trope in an inventive manner. Through a cleverly designed story structure, the audience’s perspective is the same as the wealthy guests. We consume the story in several courses, just as the guests do. On-screen descriptions of the meals, similar to cooking shows, provide commentary and at times jokes, to depict how far into the madness we, as both the viewer and the customer, are. Mixing violence and terror with philosophical messages about the mistreatment of workers of the industry produces a   constantly intriguing dynamic that keeps the viewers wondering what will happen next. 

The Menu is clearly about class. From the broad message of consumption to the sly remarks at even a sign of wealth, money is the central point of division. Each customer represents some aspect of wealth and success having contributed to their pettiness and self-righteousness, from the trio of whining tech workers whose boss entirely funds the chef to the well-established critic who comments on every slight mistake of the restaurant. While at first appearing as a rather bland critique of how money takes over people, the critique is soon taken to such an over-the-top degree that you can’t help but enjoy the insanities that ensue. In addition, there are deeper layers that unfold as the story progresses, such as the obsession of creators over art, losing your passion for work as it becomes a job, and the hypocrisy of critics in that they cannot actually create for how much they criticize. 

In order to accompany an astonishingly artistic movie about capitalism and consumption, an experienced team of hard and skilled workers was needed. Producers Adam Mckay, Betsy Koch and Will Ferrel (yes, that Will Ferrel), and cinematographer Peter Deming worked to ensure that this dark comedy matches the same perfectionist expectations it addresses. Colin Stetson provided the suspenseful, yet formal, soundtrack which matches the major tonal shifts that add to both the horror and the comedy. Furthermore, Christopher Tellefsen carried out the difficult task of editing together the scenes and tracks with a dark mood and at times hilarious on-screen gags. Along with these accomplished individuals who helped bring this film to life, a professional chef, Dominique Crenn, helped to perfect the look of the 9-course meals we see throughout the movie. It was these workers and the actors’ performances that truly brought this story to life.
Overall, the broad message is something we’ve all seen before, but what makes The Menu special is its success in presentation, underlying critiques, and excessive caricatures. Some of the characters do feel underdeveloped, but the characters that are developed hold our interests enough to keep the movie great. In my opinion, it’s an 8/10 and definitely deserves a watch due to the hard work put into it and what one can discover within this dinner experience and its guests.

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