• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Review: The Menu

ByIsabella Santini

Jan 17, 2023
An image of the actor Anya Taylor-Joy at a comic convention.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Following in the footsteps of Knives Out and Ready or Not, The Menu is the latest film in a line of black comedy satires about the mega-rich. It might be hopping on a bandwagon, but this is certainly one of the most fun bandwagons to be on at the moment.

The Menu follows Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a couple who have managed to score reservations at Chef Julian Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes) ultra-exclusive restaurant on an isolated, private island. The other guests include an ego-driven food critic and her yes-man lackey, a washed-up actor and his assistant, a preppy old-money couple, and three insufferable tech bros. This is a restaurant where every dish is performance art, full of symbolism and meaning – “we’re eating the ocean,” remarks the critic in between classical allusions. But not everything is as it seems, and as the night continues and the courses keep coming, the guests realise they’re in mortal danger.

Other critics have described The Menu as enjoyable yet shallow. I have to disagree. Sure, it’s no Soy Cuba or Salt of the Earth, but I think its focus on foodie culture specifically and the performative intellectualism and inaccessibility of fine dining sets it apart from others of its ilk. And without giving too much away, this film is really elevated by the fact that it’s not only the guests who are satirised. The chef too has been taken in by his own legend – even the exploited can be complicit. It is only Anya Taylor-Joy’s grounded Margot who sees through all the pageantry and remains unimpressed.

Beyond the laugh-out-loud funny script and the social commentary, what makes this film great is the performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is on top form as always, and Nicholas Hoult is hilarious as the oblivious, sycophantic fanboy who both believes he is above the “no photos” rule and is terrified that the chef is mad at him, but it is Ralph Fiennes who really steals the show. The whole film hinges on his performance – even with its great dialogue the film would have been nothing without the level of emotional depth that he brought to the character. He strikes the perfect balance between comic and tragic, and from his line delivery to his subtle facial expressions, everything is on-point.

As somebody who’s worked in hospitality, I’m probably a little biased, but this film spoke to me for that reason. It was wonderful to see hospitality workers being honest about how demoralising the work can be; even when you love it in theory and you love the people you work with, because certain customers don’t see you as a person. Particularly satisfying too, were the moments in which Hong Chau’s brilliantly played Elsa got to remind the entitled diners to their faces that the world didn’t actually revolve around them. This is the film I didn’t know I needed, and I think anybody who’s ever worked in a kitchen or waited tables will feel the same.

This is definitely one of this year’s best offerings in the RPSCU (Rich People Satire Cinematic Universe), and I can’t recommend it enough for hospitality workers and non-hospitality workers alike.

Anya Taylor-Joy” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.