More dark comedy than horror, this thriller is something eccentric and tense that audiences can really sink their teeth into.
“The Menu,” directed by Mark Mylod, follows a couple, food connoisseur Tyler and mysterious cool-girl Margot, as they set out to an exclusive island for a gourmet and lavishly expensive meal. Accompanied by fellow ultra-wealthy patrons, it becomes clear that Margot doesn’t entirely fit in with the group. She doesn’t seem so excited about the food compared to the others and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. As the meal commences, the chef, played by Ralph Fiennes, as well as the staff, start to exhibit strange and menacing behaviors.
Anya Taylor-Joy does well as the rebellious cool-girl type in the role of Margot, and Nicholas Hoult plays off her hilariously as Tyler. Hoult is wonderful to dislike, and sells the pompousness excellently. Ralph Fiennes is chilling as the chef, and provides a contrast to the rest of the supporting cast, which includes John Leguizamo as a boastful has-been movie star and Janet McTeer as a snooty and artificial food critic. Nearly all of the characters are delightfully egotistical and unappealing.
The film is slick despite its simplicity, with the set designs bringing a luxurious yet ominous feel to scenes. Rich wood and metal with moody lighting support the acting wonderfully. The music provides a sense of opulence, but it also adds an undercurrent of tension with its eery violins. The editing is clever and funny, with intermittent text over images of the dishes to suggest a new scene, and to add to the story. This further adds to the satire and play on foodie culture.
As a movie where its plot focus is food, the food itself needed to be realistic and appropriately over the top. The design for the food was mouthwatering and stunning, balancing pretentiousness with believability. This attention to detail helped to boost the themes of art and perfectionism in the film itself.
The film criticizes the whims and egos of the wealthy with dark humor and a uniquely unsettling plot. It was often unpredictable, defying expectations by building mystery and tension effectively. Though it was not always fast-paced or action-packed, it was never boring. Characters were established early on without giving away too much, and it provided a fresh and interesting take on the tortured artist trope. Anyone looking for traditional action or horror will likely be disappointed, but as long as one approaches it with an open mind, it will be an enjoyable experience.