There are plenty of films that have dealt with eccentric chefs or focused on food in some way. The Menu takes this concept to the next level and makes you think twice about the man behind the food you are eating. This is a closer look into the pressures of being a head chef and the reputation that man or woman has to keep to stay on top in a cutthroat industry such as the restaurant industry.
Tyler and Margot (Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor Joy) are a young couple who are going to an exclusive restaurant on an island where they will be served a special menu of food for this occasion. Along with a food critic and her editor, a movie star and his personal assistant, two regulars, and some others making the number twelve exclusive guests. They all get more than just the food and the chef experience though. They get some special surprises they weren’t counting on.
Ralph Fiennes gives a great performance as this chef who’s stuck on himself and his way of doing things. He commands the screen every time he’s on it which is quite a lot. As Chef Julian Slovik he controls every aspect of the dinner. He commands his cooks and food preparers like they are in the military and he’s a drill sergeant. Clapping his hands to indicate when the next course is ready to serve and gives them time lengths to be ready for each course. It’s pretty crazy how this all is set up.
There is a way that the story flows Seth Ross and Will Tracy have used each course as a chapter in the story so the director Mark Mylod only has to follow these rules in the story. As long as certain things happen between each course the film and story continue to move forward. This isn’t a normal dinner though and some crazy stuff is thrown in for good measure ala Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. These two characters are eccentric and they want to show people who don’t realize how hard and important what they do truly is.
I’m a big fan of food and I’ll pay for a good meal sometimes. It’s worth the price to get something good or great once in a while and be wowed when you get up from a table after having eaten a great meal. This film takes that concept to the next level. This experience wasn’t cheap and what these people got wasn’t exactly what they paid for. But in a way, they got what they deserved. An exclusive meal served by a world-renowned chef at his restaurant. What more could they have wanted? That’s a joke. They got much more than they wanted but exactly what they deserved.
Anya Taylor Joy on the other hand is an enigma the whole time. She isn’t exactly who she is supposed to be and she is hard to figure out by the head man Fiennes’s character. He likes that she is aloof though and isn’t like the rest of this snobby group of people. She beats to her own drum and it benefits her in the end. She is really the only likable character in the movie. Even her so-called boyfriend is a stuck-up food snob.
As a friend of a family of restrauntiers, I have come to realize this isn’t an easy world to succeed in. The pressure to deliver good food at a great price has always been hard. They do a great job continuing their legacy of providing great food every day but it’s not easy. So I can imagine how hard it had to be for a four-star restaurant and Michelin man to keep up his restaurant and his reputation. This film takes it to the next level though and that is what makes it a genre film for lack of a better word.
The Menu is a culinary delight of superb acting by the star Ralph Fiennes. Who gives one of the best performances of the year? Anya Taylor Joy is always solid in whatever she does. The whole food experience and restaurant setup were very interesting to me. I don’t usually go to very expensive restaurants and this was worth the price of admission to me. The story and direction by Mylod were first-rate. He understood this world he was filming and depicting on screen. It was a delicious meal to digest from beginning to end.
4 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen