There are movies this year that have completely blown everyone away, from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Top Gun: Maverick. However these films are sequels to previous projects. The Menu on the other hand is one of the more original projects of the year and of recent memory, similar to Everything Everywhere All At Once. It perfectly balances dark comedy with an unnerving atmosphere, you are not gonna find another film like this out there and I am glad to say that this is one of the best films of the year!
Margot (played by Anya Taylor Joy) and Tyler (played by Nicholas Hoult) are a young couple invited out to an exquisite and reputable restaurant, Hawthorne, run by the enigmatic chef Julian Slowik (played by Ralph Fiennes). Margot, Tyler, and the other dozen of A-list celebrities and one percenters believe they are getting one of the best wining and dining experiences out there with some extremely tasteful food. However, the lovely dream quickly turns into a nightmare when Slowik’s motives for the night become painfully clear and escape is near impossible.
The Menu was marketed as a horror-comedy. I have to say, there isn’t much horror in it, but it possesses an unnerving atmosphere. It really eases you in with it being more of a harmless and theatrical dining experience, while slowly tensing things up little by little with each course presented, further adding a different layer to the story and why each customer is there. The film also intelligently becomes unpredictable throughout the runtime. Each character’s fate remains up in the air as the story continues until the very end, keeping everyone rightfully tense and on their toes. While I wouldn’t call this a horror film per say, it is still rather scary in the presentation of our antagonist and the uncertain atmosphere the film consists of.
The film’s other half, the comedy, on the other hand is both side-splitting and just as unpredictable. You never know whether to laugh at some of the character gags like a birthday cake at your last meal or to laugh at one of the many twists that happened because hopelessness truly sets in and you don’t have the energy to cry or fear anything anymore. It may be a dark sense of humor and it is not for everyone, but it fits perfectly with the film’s tone. Whether or not you appreciate dark comedy, you will either be laughing with pure joy or cackling to avoid cringing out of despair.
Of course, I cannot ignore the biggest draw of the film: the food. Seeing how each dish is prepared is satisfying to watch and honestly made me want to try each dish prepared, minus the risk of death of course. The detail and beauty put into each course just compliments both the technical aspects of the cooking profession and the film itself. I never wanted to have a regular cheeseburger made for me like the one made at Hawthorne so badly in my life! I may not be a foodie as others might, but damn did each meal look delicious!
The performances in The Menu are otherworldly, with Ralph Fiennes leading the charge with his subtle take on Chef Slowik. Fiennes takes a very human approach to the character, given him more layers than an onion. He never overdoes it, being more terrifying out of the room than he is in it. This character loves to cook but it had become a chore to him over the years and you can tell as he tries to please everyone. However, near the end he gets a little joy back in cooking as he makes a simple cheeseburger. You can tell with his body language, vocal inflections and small facial expressions. Margot is also a fantastic character as she is the odd one out of the colorful cast of characters there, and actually manages to challenge our antagonist like no one else; Anya Taylor Joy kills it as our protagonist.
No other film has ever put me on edge like The Menu has in recent memory. It may not be scary, but it is quite a tense and unnerving experience with quite a dark sense of humor that will leave you reeling either from genuine laughter or to prevent despair from setting in. Ralph Fiennes gives a subtle yet intense performance as our enigmatic chef, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he is nominated at awards ceremonies this year. Anya Taylor Joy continues to impress with anything she is in and plays well against Voldemort. Whether you came for the horror, comedy, or food, The Menu offers an experience like no other and is truly enjoyable like many of the dishes prepared during the film!