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The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Let’s find out together, in this dedicated review, if and how much The Menu, a film starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy available in the Disney Plus catalog, convinced us

ORIGINAL TITLE: The Menu. TYPE: thriller, horror, commedia. NATION: United States of America. REGIA: Mark Mylod. CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, Reed Birney, Rob Yang, Aimee Carrero, Paul Adelstein, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, Rebecca Koon, Peter Grosz, Alemarto. DURATION: 107 minutes. DISTRIBUTOR: Searchlight Pictures. CINEMA OUTPUT: 17/11/2022.

Cooking makes me think a little of beautiful music: I’m capable of appreciating it, of enjoying it, but not of making it.

Bernard Moitissier

And it is with the words of the great French navigator and writer Moitessier that we open this review of The Menu, a film starring Ralph Fiennes (the infamous Harry Potter Voldemort), written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and directed by Mark Mylod, which arrived in January on Disney Plus following its November theatrical release last year. Of culinary criticism, the writer knows absolutely nothing even if, like Moitissier, he knows how to appreciate good traditional cuisine, a little less the modern archetypes full of gelation and molecular products of various kinds. And, after seeing The Menu, maybe it’s even better this way.

Dinner with Crime? | The Menu review

An atypical “Dinner with a crime”, the one that Mark Mylod reproduces on film with The Menu. We are on a small private atoll, isolated and without network coverage (and already here…), on which the Hawthorn restaurant stands, run by the extravagant Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) and specialized in molecular cuisine. Tiny portions, extravagant flavors and rather peculiar presentations, in short. The diners at the dinner we will attend are multifaceted and varied.

From the young, charming and mysterious Margot (a very good Anya Taylor-Joy) and her particularly obsessed with the kitchen companion Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), to the culinary critic Janet McTeer (Lilian Bloom) accompanied by the lackey Ted (Paul Aldestein), to pass to elderly married couple Anne (Judith Light) and Richard (Reed Birney) and several others. In short, we said: varied diners.

The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Surreal | The Menu review

A $1,200-a-head dinner crammed with tiny portions and weird combinations. The antics, however, don’t just end up on the plate. From the first moments, both the viewer and the young Margot, the only one who seems to have sense within the film (and who, in fact, shouldn’t even have been there that evening), perceive a strong sense of estrangement and restlessness, starting from the first part of the film which acts as an (all too long) build-up of anxiety. Anxiety that reaches its climax when, for a course called Massacre, a young sous-chef takes a pistol and shoots himself in the mouth, on the orders of chef Slowik himself. So good.

The markedly surreal atmosphere continues throughout the film, with events and situations that turn out to be, at first glance, quite alienating. The grotesque scenes don’t stop at the aforementioned sous-chef’s suicide, of course, but the good thing is that nothing has been taken to extremes, quite the contrary. Even the most satirical and boisterous, almost satirical part compensates for itself with a general atmosphere that is anything but funny. In short: an excellent combination that helps the viewer not to feel uncomfortable, as in almost all horror cinematography, and to enjoy this bizarre dinner.

The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Criticism of criticism | The Menu review

The Menu is a critique of the critique, a sort of awareness on the part of modern cuisine in which the Chefs are, rather than real artists of nature, simple prominent personalities to whom everything is allowed, everything is permitted. To underline this fanaticism is the same character of Tyler, obsessed with the figure of Chef Slovik, with his words, his opinions and his gestures. All the other diners are on the same line, who, despite some ingenuity during dinner, still accept everything that happens before their eyes, regardless of what should be the normal reactions related to human survival. Try to escape? To fight back? To turn the tables? There is someone who thinks about it, but nobody acts.

No one except Margot. The girl is the only contingency that Slovik hadn’t calculated for that evening, as she shouldn’t have been there with Tyler, who was supposed to bring his historic girlfriend. An element of disturbance, therefore, in something completely planned, programmed in every single detail. A disturbing element that will, perhaps, change something. We stop here: the ending, however disappointing and anticlimactic from some points of view, deserves to be fully enjoyed.

The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Actor’s evidence of great value | The Menu review

Although all the actors have been able to fully carry out their work, the two characters represented by Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes are the driving force throughout the film. Either for the two excellent performances, or for the stupendous antithetical alchemy that has gradually been created during the various scenes, or because, in the end, we are faced with two objectively commendable acting performances, their figures are undoubtedly the major “pro” of this film.

It should also be remembered that, in 2019, it was announced that the Oscar winner Emma Stone would play the young Margot and that The Menu would be directed by Alexander Payne. However, the two left the film in 2020 because they were busy with other jobs. And, if on the one hand Taylor-Joy almost made us miss Emma Stone, on the other also the director Mark Mylon, here in his first real big screen test (if we exclude the 2011 comedy Sex List), has able to do his job very well.

The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Puppet Theater | The Menu review

Of course, it must be admitted that setting everything in a single, small restaurant helps a lot to know how to play with the direction, but the fact remains that everything in The Menu has been studied directorically. From the shots, to the colors, to the photography, passing through the wonderful real staging of the dinner. Some scenes, in which the staff move in unison to execute the Chef’s orders, seem like real dance choreographies.

An underlying theatricality that goes well with the mood of the film, which almost aims to be a real show in which the audience is placed right there, beyond that window overlooking the sea. The puppets (all except Margot), from the staff to the diners, they move exactly as the Chef wishesalmost bringing his figure closer to a God. Although he himself admits the far perfection and the damage that figures like his, or that of all the guests present at dinner that evening, have done to the world of cooking.

The Menu review: macabre example of criticism

Great Menu

A harsh criticism, therefore, that moved by The Menu to modern cuisine and which we absolutely wanted to discuss in this review. A film that has been able to keep us in suspense, despite depicting a situation that is at least surreal and improbable, and which has involved us also thanks to a not excessively long duration. Too bad for the initial part, perhaps excessively pompous and long, but considering the two excellent acting performances by Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy we can safely forgive everything.

The Menu is currently available in the Disney Plus catalog. Let us know if you’ve seen the movie in the comments below and stay tuned with us at for all the news on the subject of cinema and TV series!

Plus points

  • Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes outstanding
  • Directed right
  • A choreographic critique of death

Points against

  • Initial build-up too long
  • Perhaps, at times, too alienating

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