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the menu

★★★★★

starring: ralph fiennes, anya taylor-joy, nicholas hoult, and john leguizamo

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.

A couple, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), travel to a coastal island in the Pacific Northwest to eat at an exclusive restaurant, Hawthorn, where the reclusive, globally celebrated Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) has prepared a lavish tasting menu for select special guests. 

 

Hosted by the immaculately dressed front of house staff led by general Elsa (Hong Chau), 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. 

 

Coming out of a global pandemic, with crises on every continent, there is a sense of unease in the air. Things that we could rely on for stability and a sense of normalcy have descended into chaos. During the Cold War era Hitchcock and many other storytellers explored that sense of uncertainty, allowing the audience to vicariously gain control over a chaotic situation through the characters in their tales. Again, in this time of global unease, filmmakers are allowing us again to face that sense of chaos and to overcome it through a crop of streaming and cinematic thrillers. 

 

And The Menu does this perfectly. A smorgasbord of a film from the ensemble cast to the production design, The Menu is an intricately crafted thriller that simmers with a ferocious intensity throughout to its delightful and daring boilover of a conclusion. One of 2022’s best. 

 

The Menu begins with something that seems to be pretty reliable, an exclusive restaurant where the rich, famous, and influential want to eat. But the characters and the audience's expectations of such an establishment are slowly but surely unsettled as the truth and purpose of Hawthorn and Chef Slowik is revealed. 

 

And as the audience there is an extra layer of unease as you don’t quite know where it's all heading, as twist after macabre twist is revealed. The Menu is also darkly funny, accompanied by a pertinent commentary on critics versus creators, class, and the snobbery surrounding what people consider art.

 

The production design from the Hawthorn restaurant to the mouth watering dishes is to die for with Colin Stetson’s score ratcheting up the tension in all the right places. The ensemble cast is led beautifully by a wide eyed yet determined Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes is a delight moving effortlessly from warm, genteel host to cold and calculated ruthlessness in a single breath. 

 

A smorgasbord of a film from the ensemble cast to the production design, The Menu is an intricately crafted thriller that simmers with a ferocious intensity throughout to its delightful and daring boilover of a conclusion. One of 2022’s best.

★★★★★