'The Menu' Is Deliciously Nasty

Directed by Mark Mylod

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, John Leguizamo

Photo courtesy of TIFF

BY Rachel HoPublished Nov 15, 2022

The Menu wasn't a part of TIFF's Midnight Madness programme this year, but it would have been perfectly at home with the raucous late night audience. Mark Mylod's latest film is as nasty as it is hilarious as he sends up haute cuisine and the superficial world that's grown around it.

As a small group of diners step off a boat onto Hawthorne Island, a secluded, self-sustaining 12-acres of foodie goodness, they give one another a smug acknowledgement. They are the chosen ones. The one percent of the one percent who are not only able to afford the $1,250-per-head pricetag, but also are able to secure an invitation to this exclusive meal.

The diners are shown around by Hawthorne's front of house manager Elsa (an excellent Hong Chau), who impresses upon them the brilliance of Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). The eclectic group, including a trio of tech bros, a washed-up movie star (John Leguizamo), a renowned restaurant critic (Janet McTeer), and Instagram foodie Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), are all suitably impressed.

The exception is Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), the lone guest not on the list; she was brought as a substitution by Tyler, whose original date could no longer accompany him. As the evening unfolds, Chef Slowik zeroes in on Margot, who is visibly unmoved by culinary pretension and finds Chef's displays more comical than clever. When the true nature of Chef's menu comes to light, everyone, including Margot, are forced to reckon with their own self-indulgence and assumed superiority in the most vicious and bizarre manner.

Seith Reiss and Will Tracy write a biting script full of sharp dialogue and imaginative twists that draws gasps and laughs throughout the film. Mylod's direction plays beautifully with the script, inter-cutting scenes with witty title cards and an incredible sound design that elevates the theatrical dining experience.

Alongside the direction and writing, what makes The Menu so deliciously wicked is how the cast savour every moment on screen. Fiennes and Taylor-Joy lead the cast with two strong and nuanced performances that let on just enough to keep viewers engaged. In supporting roles, Chau, Leguizamo and Hoult are absolutely hilarious — especially Leguizamo, who delivers some of the best one-liners in the film.

The film roasts the rich, the social media fixated and the image obsessed. The Menu is truly a dish best served in a packed theatre of nutters who can appreciate one of the darkest satirical comedies of the year.
(Searchlight Pictures)

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