review by Bobby Blakey
I really dig films where food or cooking is at the forefront. The entire thing can serve up any genre with greats like PIG, Burnt, and Chef to name a few. The latest, The Menu looks to bring a sinister twist to it and stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, Hong Chau, Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, Reed Birney, Aimee Carrero and Ralph Fiennes from director Mark Mylod. Could this film bring something fresh and sinister to the world of food or will it fail to serve up a dish worth savoring?
The Menu follows a couple, Margot and Tyler, who travel to a coastal island in the Pacific Northwest to eat at an exclusive restaurant, Hawthorn, where the reclusive, globally celebrated Chef Julian Slowik has prepared a lavish tasting menu for select special guests. Joining the couple are three young, already inebriated tech bros, Bryce, Soren and Dave, an older wealthy couple and repeat clients, Anne and Richard, renowned restaurant critic Lillian Bloom and her slavish magazine editor Ted, and a famous middle-aged movie star with his assistant Felicity. Hosted by the immaculately dressed front of house staff led by general Elsa, the evening unfolds with increasing tension at each of the guest tables as secrets are revealed and unexpected courses are served. With wild and violent events occurring, Slowik’s motivation begins to rattle the diners as it becomes increasingly apparent that his elaborate menu is designed to catalyze to a shocking finale.
I am a huge fan of John Leguizamo, so his involvement alone was enough to make me want to see this film, but the trailers were engaging and really grabbed my interest in wondering where it was all going.
Diving in to this film I hoped for something that stood out, was cleverly written and offered up courses that made me keep wanting more, but what I got was so much more in the best way possible. This film takes a unique journey using the multi-course meal to tell this story that is enthralling and fast paced all while being infused meal to tell this story that is enthralling and fast paced all while being infused with the insane and confusion.
This dining experience wastes no time in letting you know that something is off and as it goes further off the rails you can’t help but be eager to see what is next. Like an actual multi-course meal this story unfolds with variety of feelings, visuals and flavors that keep you fully invested until the crazy ending. Everyone here is on point with Fiennes delivering a brilliantly creepy performance that feels like a mash up passionate crazed chef and borderline psychopath, yet there is still something calm and sinister about him that is mesmerizing to watch.
Anya-Taylor Joy probably gets the most meat to chew on outside of Fiennes and because the perfect sparring partner for him. The rest of the cast each bring something great to their roles and in turn infuse it the perfect ingredients for a dish you will no doubt hope to have again. I could go on and on about everyone with everyone so great, but the other true standout for me was Hong Chau as the front of house Elsa. She is the calm before the storm, but you know that she is not to be crossed. Leguizamo is great bringing this aged star to life and after hearing he was channeling Steven Seagal made the performance all the more brilliant to watch.
There are some twists and turns as expected and of course an explanation of it all, but to my surprise it isn’t as deep or off as I had expected. There were some theories I had that were right, but the end truth is actually pretty simple and kind of brilliant in that simplicity. I loved every moment of this film and will firmly place this film of one of my favorite films of the year by far. It could be an acquired taste, but I would be baffled to hear anyone not really find the perfection in it all.
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including deleted scenes and featurettes taking you behind bringing this film to life. Order up your copy of The Menu available now on digital and then Blu-ray and DVD on January 17th from 20th Century Studios.