Happy New Year! I know, I know. We’re still on my 2022 First Watches. I’m aware it’s 2023, but I got super behind at the end of the year. Sometimes I have so much crap to do that reviewing films takes a backseat, and that sucks… but onwards and upwards! Hopefully I actually have more time to do the things I love to do this year.
Anyway, on to The Menu. And holy smokes, what a fun movie. It’s also super weird. It’s quirky. It’s dark. It’s stylish. The Menu is a lot of things. I have to say though, watching this was one of the best times I had in the cinema all year, and aside from Wakanda Forever, this was the fullest screen I’d been a part of all year too, which is surprising.
The premise? A young couple travel to an island via ferry, all to visit an exclusive, apparently 5 star restaurant that is open to only those who can afford it. The head chef (Ralph Fiennes) greets his guests with a specially curated menu that has a lot more relevance to the real world than they could have ever predicted. Whilst the dishes are pretentious yet impressive, the main talking points at this restaurant are not the food at all…
The leading thought I had when leaving the cinema? This was oh so delicious for anyone who has ever worked in the service industry. Myself included. Alas, I can’t elaborate on that without stepping into spoiler territory.
What I can disclose is that Mark Mylod’s nutty, unhinged The Menu is exactly what I was expecting from it and more. A black comedy with an original and gripping premise, the film’s plot is both mysterious yet transparent in its storytelling, with twists and turns galore. Social commentary regarding the rich/poor divide and the general arseholery of those who think they’re of a so-called “higher class” is woven into this film’s fabric with an ease that will shock you within itself.
Some reviews have labelled The Menu as “unfunny”, but it is so clear to me that the humour on display here is actually just very dry, sarcastic, and often jaw-dropping in its shock factor. Could you say this movie has a very British sense of humour? I’d say so. Perhaps some aren’t quite so on-board with that, but alongside the cold, hard set decoration and ultra-modern aesthetic, this humour creates a jarring aura within the film that puts it head and shoulders above 90% of movies this year in terms of memorability.
Of course, none of this works without an excellent cast. Many of these familiar faces do a great job here (Judith Light, John Leguizamo, and especially Hong Chau) but it is the headliners that do the heavy lifting. Whilst Anya Taylor-Joy’s American accent leaves a lot to be desired in this one, the magnetism of her performance is just what the director ordered; if Emma Stone had gone through with this role as originally planned, there’s no way it would have had the same effect. The real MVP though? Of course it’s Ralph Fiennes. He’s so effortlessly menacing and intimidating, yet you can’t help empathise with him throughout. In fact, he brings such a layered performance to this social satire that it’s easy to see how this film would fall apart without his expertise as the lynchpin.
Overall, this is one of my films of the year. It is tightly packed into two hours, and constructed in such a way that you’ll be glued to the screen the entire time. Plus, the line about Brown University and student loans? Comedy genius. I rarely re-watch movies that I’ve seen before, but I’ll be adding this one to my very short re-watch list immediately.
The Menu is currently not yet available to rent/buy but is still showing at select cinemas across the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Overall Enjoyability Rating: ½