Dir. Mark Mylod (2022)
A young couple undergoes a unique dining experiment at the world’s most exclusive restaurant.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Fine dining is such bullshit. Look, I get it: once you’ve tried the world’s most expensive culinary offerings, you feel the need to prepare things in ways that are not only nontraditional but also batshit crazy. Regardless, there is absolutely no reason to turn steak into foam and to deep-freeze soup chunks. And yet, there is a market for these bizarre edibles, people with more money than sense who desperately want to drink their chicken and cut into a nice, thick slice of jellied seabass. 2022’s The Menu features a group of these adventurous gastronomes who have more money than sense, seeking their sustenance at an ultra-exclusive restaurant on an island run by a chef who may actually be insane.
Filled with electrifying performances, most notably by Anya Taylor-Joy (Margot) and Ralph Fiennes (Chef Slowik), The Menu is a stellar takedown of these high-society snoblets and an adept indictment of the types of behaviors people who can afford these luxuries almost certainly practice. It’s a stylish movie, patterning itself like an episode of Hell’s Kitchen by way of Ari Aster. It’s gorgeously shot, genuinely funny at times, and a mysterious look inside the deteriorating mind of someone whose entire identity is based around pleasing others through food. It turns out, both chefs and guests have their own secrets, and as the mystery unfolds we get to take the chef’s table for an incredibly unique filmic experience that is arguably one of the best movies of the year. Unfortunately, I watched this one at the beginning of 2023, so it didn’t make it’s way to our Best of 2022 List.
Literally everything hits with this film, from the astute direction to the exemplary script by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. Every role is played to perfection, every on-screen dish displayed scrumptiously by set decorators and prop masters. It’s Oscar-level performances from every member of the crew, and while it’s not a straight-up horror film, there are enough twisted delights and devilish dishes to make even the most ardent horror fan squirm. It’s a character driven story where the characters are revealed over time, an Agatha Christie story updated for the modern, consumerist world. And it’s a fucking delight.
The twists come faster than the appetizers, and the movie is just loads of fun. By the time we get to the Hereditary-esque finale, we’re left wanting more from literally every single character. There are very few films who can say that, but The Menu is absolutely one of them. Director Mark Mylod, who is best known for directing a bunch of episodes of Succession (which I just caught up with and is absolutely fantastic) and Game of Thrones (which… well, thankfully he got out before season 8), is stellar, creating a gorgeous movie that taste as good as it looks.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror fans, Dark comedy lovers, People who still have a Diner’s Club card
Bottom line: Absolutely loved this one, one of my favorite films of 2022 (despite my first watch happening a tad too late.) It’s streaming on Hulu, and I highly recommend that you check it out. Even if you don’t love it, there are so many near-perfect pieces of the film that you’ll find something to enjoy. Taylor-Joy is excellent as usual, and the always compelling Ralph Fiennes gives another legendary performance in a career full of legendary performances. Kudos to all involved, this one is a hell of a film.