The Menu Review: A delectable and savory mix of horror thrills and darkly comedic satire
The latest from director Mark Mylod, The Menu, offers a delicious slice of dark comedy with some hilarious jabs at avant-garde culinary and class that audiences can easily savor.
The film takes viewers into Hawthorne, an island restaurant run by the well-regarded and domineering Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) that serves some of the wealthiest and snobbiest clientele out there. However, on one particular night, Chef Slowik has crafted a special menu for a specific set of guests that’s much more twisted than anything he’s concocted before. So, as it becomes clear that Chef Slowik has ulterior motives from just serving his guests, the guests, mainly one named Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), must figure out a way to turn the tables on Chef Slowik and his staff to avoid suffering a terrible fate.
The first things about The Menu that stand out are its style of dark comedy as well as its very fancy foodie world that’s not too different from the avant-garde art world. Right from meeting the film’s central group of guests, The Menu’s sense of satire becomes clear, and you can’t help but love how it splices in some hilarious dashes of dark comedy into its eventual horror and themes. It’s pretty fun to watch the film poke fun at plenty of foodie stereotypes, including petty food reviewers, social media influencers, and the annoyingly wealthy with no real class, and it’s even better when Chef Slowik is introduced, and viewers will really get to see a hellish mix of a culinary artist and the dominating presence of a Gordon Ramsey-like chef. Perhaps some of the characters outside of Margot and Chef Slowik could’ve been further fleshed out outside of their satirical roles, but they still provide some good laughs amongst the horror.
To be honest, some of the funniest moments come from Chef Slowik’s culinary artistry as it evokes some perfectly opposing vibes to the horror that surrounds it and sometimes inspires it making it very funny. When Chef Slowik’s staff brings out their concoctions and even tell the stories behind them, you can feel the film perfectly satirizing the avant-garde food atmosphere through its overt decadence and condescending speech . From the hilarious philosophical monologues about the meaning and taste of food to some of the names and ideas behind the dishes, it’s hard not to find yourself laughing at Chef Slowik’s courses while also being marveled by the visual deliciousness of what’s put on the plate. Honestly, for a good chunk of The Menu, it can be easily seen as a fun and stunning satire about food, but it’s its dark nature that makes the experience even stronger.
As Chef Slowik and his staff’s dark nature comes to the surface and takes aim towards the guests, the film’s horrors become highly engaging and elevate the story. The film’s thrills slowly build-up well and there are plenty of brutal, even bloody, moments that show how far Chef Slowik and his staff are willing to go to fulfill the menu. There are legitimately great twists and turns littered throughout and some gut-wrenching moments that embody the coldest of revenge and are truly shocking. It’s great how the horrifying discoveries and meanings within Chef Slowik’s menu are never played for simple shock either and there’s a great thematic thread of revenge that’s excellently delved into throughout.
Along with its great satirical depictions of the overly artsy culinary world, The Menu also features some strong themes on class as well. With the way it delves into Chef Slowik’s motivations for the night and exposes some of the underlying truths of the guests, The Menu evokes a lot of intriguing thoughts and arcs surrounding class as well as the mentality and meaning of food that eventually leads to a genuinely great finale as Margot tries to find a way out of the fatal night. Not to mention, there’s a thrilling rivalry between Margot and Chef Slowik that’s not only deeply engaging to see play out, but also is constantly enhanced by the dominating screen presence that Fiennes has and the relatability that Taylor-Joy brings to her performance.
The Menu is a darkly comedic treat that’s easy to enjoy for its rich satire and performances, but also contains a strong story and themes that enhance the flavor and make it a plentiful viewing experience for all audiences.
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