I’m glad I knew almost nothing about this movie going in because, boy, does this one pull off some surprisingly dark and wacky things before it’s through.
Set during a highly coveted dining experience with one of the most revered chefs on the planet, The Menu sees Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) welcome a select few people onto his private island — a Foodie, Tyler Ledford (Nicholas Hoult), his girlfriend, Margot Mills (Anya Taylor-Joy), and movie star George Diaz (John Leguizamo), among them — to partake in a dinner party that isn’t what it seems. Introducing each course with a professional perspective that gets progressively more vindictive and cerebral before each new meal, Chef Slowik soon turns the night on its head by bringing blood, violence, and danger to his guests, all wrapped up in a delicious but deadly smorgasbord of food that not everyone is destined to finish.
One of the most interesting things about this film is that it unflinchingly goes in on a premise that could have easily gone the way of “direct-to-DVD” if not for the talent attached in front of and behind the camera. Violent and intense in bursts but deliberate and nuanced when unraveling the reasons behind Chef Slowik’s dinner gathering and his choice of menu, the darkness of this film is complimented by a slow burn of a story that I genuinely wanted to see play out until its final moments. Full of disturbing scenes that feed into the grand scheme of what Chef Slowik is trying to accomplish, I found myself enjoying the small twists and turns the script kept throwing at me, despite a couple of moments that felt undercooked or even cut down on the editing floor.
And while the odd and dark nature of this movie is greatly appreciated, it doesn’t always work the way it should, especially when characters other than the main leads aren’t as fleshed out as they probably could have been given the way all of their stories play out by film’s end. Throw in an ending that I felt was appropriate but a little too on the nose for its own good, and the flaws of this film, while few, stop it from being even better than it already is.
This movie might be a bit of an acquired taste for some, but I was down for pretty much everything it was serving. Sure, the ending was a bit abrupt, and I wish it had a bit more meat to the bone in certain places, but The Menu consistently intrigued me with its darkly scripted narrative made more interesting by a handful of performances that sell its premise well, ultimately turning this one into a high-end meal worth the price of admission!