The Menu – Toronto 2022

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Menu isn’t a dish that you can eat but a fine dining experience that one must savor and relish in order to get the most out of it.

There are some elements of horror but they are minor compared to the laughs in this satire. Trust me, I would never have seen this film if it were a horror movie! Given that Adam McKay is among the film’s producers, audiences should know that they are in for a satirical treat!

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) are among a select number of people to dine at Hawthorn. Nothing gets past Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) at this exclusive restaurant on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Slowik puts so much care into the menu that he demands that his guests cannot simply eat the food but savor the taste. Joining Margot and Tyler are tech bros Bryce (Rob Yang), Soren (Arturo Castro) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr), repeat clients Anne and Richard (Judith Light and Reed Birney), restaurant critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer) and magazine editor Ted (Paul Adelstein), a movie star (John Leguizamo) and his assistant, Felicity (Aimee Carrero). Hosting them for the evening is Elsa (Hong Chau).

The Menu is the sort of film that requires everyone to be on set during filming. From the way that Mylod and cinematographer Peter Deming shoot this satirical thriller, it’s hard to film it in any other way. Plus, this way, it gives actors some room for improv as events transpire across the kitchen and dining room.

The Menu
The cast of the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Ralph Fiennes treats his chef in the complex way in which he should. I cannot stress enough that he puts a lot of work into the food on the menu. The other thing is that he clearly doesn’t like being controlled by his clients. This just speaks to the satire that will unwind upon viewing the film. Something puzzles him throughout the night in Margot. Of the entire cast, Anya Taylor-Joy is clearly having the most fun with a character that shouldn’t even be there. It’s fun to watch their relationship play out throughout the evening.

There’s no shortage of tension as the meal goes from one course to the next. It’s a smartly-written script from Seth Reiss and Will Tracy as each beat is a new course on the menu. In addition to the genre stuff, they use the script to write a satire on class. Pay attention to the screen if you want to serve one of the courses at your own meal! It must be said, however, that this menu is designed for this particular group of customers. No one menu is the same! It’s honestly tough to discuss anything specific because this is an experience that you should take in knowing as little as possible. Outside of the cast, the fact that Adam McKay, Betsy Koch, and Hyperobject Industries are on board as producers was the ringing endorsement that I needed.

Filmmaker Mark Mylod brings the same approach here that he also brought to a dinner party episode of Succession. Gosford Park inspires Mylod’s approach for both film and television. When it comes to the characters, it’s hard not to feel something for them as they go through this experience all evening long. This is a film that wonderfully captures the experience of working at a fine-dining establishment. I know a few of them working in kosher establishments but I do not envy being the executive chef in such an environment. The script takes what we know about these establishments and then goes onto just embrace the absurd. You’ll know exactly what I mean when you watch the film.

While this satirical thriller is never short on tensions, The Menu is a highly entertaining and hysterical experience to savor and relish.

DIRECTOR: Mark Mylod
SCREENWRITERS: Seth Reiss & Will Tracy
CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Judith Light, Paul Adelstein, Aimee Carrero, Arturo Castro, Rob Yang, Mark St. Cyr, and John Leguizamo

The Menu held its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Searchlight Pictures will release the film on November 18, 2022. Grade: 4.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.