Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), his other half Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and a host of other diners have paid through the nose, $1200 a head, to dine at the exclusive Hawthorne restaurant run by the famous chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Like many a Bond villain’s lair, this fancy restaurant is on a remote island and from the sous chef and maitre d’ to the waiters and sommeliers is staffed by a host of hard working and fiercely loyal staff. The food is delicate and expertly prepared, with the concept behind each miniscule course explained in painful detail. So far so par the course, but the weirdness and sense of alarm grows as the night progresses.
Directed by Mark Mylod (Ali G Indahouse, TVs Succession), The Menu is a gripping black comedy horror with a Hitchcock-esque conceit and Parasite-like satire of wealth and the wealthy. The concept piques your interest and it is kept through shocking twists and turns, violence and an amusing ensemble cast. The reason behind the night’s festivities slowly reveal themselves in this thoroughly entertaining but shallow film. As enthralling as it is it leaves you with more questions than it answers, it does not give enough context, explore enough backstories and reasons why.
That annoyance aside, the cast is a hilarious collection of clichés. We have the husband and wife regulars, the pompous food critic (a brilliant Janet McTeer) and her lackey editor, a washed up name dropping actor (John Leguizamo), three self important tech bros, Slowik’s alcoholic mother propped up in the corner and the ‘serious’ foodie and super Slowik fanboy (a hilariously slavish Nicholas Hoult). Then we have his seemingly normal and increasingly baffled girlfriend Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy in scene stealing form and Slowik himself, a steely eyed and maniacal Ralph Fiennes with an impressively loud clap.
A darkly funny and gripping comedy horror with plenty of twists, turns, shocks and spectacle up its chef’s whites but not enough substance.