The Menu is an impeccable work of art. It is an experience that tantalizes its audiences in ways that only they can comprehend after savoring its deliciousness days and months after it has been tasted. Now, I know that sounds rather pretentious, but that isn’t actually the case here. Or at least in my case, it took me a little over a month after screening the movie at this year’s Fantastic Fest to truly realize how exceptional a film it really is.
This particular movie is so exceptional in a lot of ways. It is a visual and auditory journey that should most definitely get experienced in a theater setting. And I am most grateful that I had that pleasure at a festival and a theater that prides itself in excellence when it comes to presentation. The film delivers when it comes to an exciting mix of emotions and displays the outstanding work that went into it with much pride. There aren’t that many movies which succeed on so many levels, and I am happy to say that The Menu exceeds all that it promises in its very appetizing, but very unassuming trailer.
The film begins with mostly following an extravagant date night for couple Margot and Tyler. Though they don’t really seem to know each other all that well, Tyler, a seemingly wealthy and successful individual has invited the, perhaps, plebeian Margot, who presents mostly unimpressed and often annoyed with what eventualy follows. Tyler has invited Margot for a special evening of haute cuisine, hosted by Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), a world-renown chef whose work has been celebrated and respected for some time.
Chef Slowik and his team, for a ridiculously exorbitant price, have promised an evening which will tantalize the palates of those participating in the night’s dinner. As the courses get served, it becomes disturbingly apparent that Slowik has something more sinister in mind. This proves to be even more troubling to Margot, who probably did not really want to be there in the first place.
I know my synopsis doesn’t do this movie justice, but I refuse to spoil what is certainly one of the more exciting, thrilling, and entertaining experiences in cinema this year. Written by Seth Reiss, Will Tracy, and directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu is a dark comedy/horror movie that works exceptionally on all of its levels. I found myself laughing heartily at the comedy and satire, but I also sat in much dread and suspense when things go very dark and disturbing, while trying to make sense of it all. That is not to say that it is a non-sensical affair because the movie simply delivers surprises and twists galore that I felt completely baffled at a lot of moments and situations.
It truly is a thrilling and exciting journey, and both the cinematic aethetics and the extraordinary writing succeed so well in all of the movie’s various facets. To top it off, the ensemble cast of the film is absolutely outstanding. Every actor in this film understood their assignments and work their talents to wonderful effects. The film features tremendous work by Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, John Leguizamo, Reed Birney, Paul Adelstein, and more.
However, the real stars of the movie are Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes. It is the conflict between these two characters which palpably adds to the tension and drama in the movie Fiennes is absolutely fierce, but cold, and totally calculating in his portrayal of Chef Slowik. It seems like he was born to play this character. As Margot, Anya Taylor-Joy proves to be the perfect, no-nonsense foil to Slowik, as her character Margot knows that this pretentious and psychotic ring leader has a more pathetic and weak side.
So, at this point it should be quite obvious that I think The Menu is not only one of the better films from Fantastic Fest, it is also one of my favorite movies of the year. I must also applaud the programmers of Fantastic Fest for scheduling both The Menu and Triangle of Sadness as part of their lineup, because both films pair beautifully together, like a fine wine and a delicious meal.