The Menu Review

PLOT: A young couple (Nicholas Hoult & Anya Taylor-Joy) visit an ultra-exclusive restaurant on a secluded island run by a chef (Ralph Fiennes) whose staff has a cult-like devotion to their genius boss.

REVIEW: The Menu was precisely the kind of black-hearted, cynical satire I needed at this midway point at the Toronto International Festival. When you’re watching movie after movie, it’s sometimes easy for one’s eyes to glaze over a bit, but The Menu is an energetic blast that will make even the most cynical audience member wince. It’s a delightfully-squirm inducing satire of wealth and haute-cuisine, with several Grand Guignol moments that even inch it towards the horror genre.

It’s brilliantly written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and sharply directed by Succession‘s Mark Mylod (like that show, it’s produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell). Anya Taylor-Joy grounds the film as Margot, a young woman enlisted to join the $1200 a head dinner at the last moment. The rules of Fiennes’ restaurant don’t allow seating for one, so Nicholas Hoult, an ultra-wealthy (and pompous) foodie, has her come along when his date ditches him. She’s unimpressed by the hoops guests have to jump through to get fed, with the group taking a chartered boat to the island for a precise seating. There’s no in or out as long as the meal goes on.

The group is a loathsome collection of the ultra-rich, including perhaps the world’s most pretentious food critic (Janet McTeer) and her lackey (Paul Adelstein), a washed-up comedy star (John Leguizamo) and his assistant (Aimee Carrero). There’s also an older couple (Reed Birney & Judith Light) who can’t stop staring at Margot and some finance bros (Arturo Castro, Rob Yang and Mark St. Cyr) who work for the billionaire who owns the restaurant.

The Menu belongs to Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy, but everyone gets their moment to shine, with Hong Chau especially notable as Fiennes’ number two, who runs the seating with an iron fist. Taylor-Joy is the “us” character, being the only non-wealthy guest and the only one not under the spell of the incredibly pretentious cuisine, with each course being listed by its ingredients on-screen as the film goes on. This brings her to the attention of Fiennes’ chef, Slowik, who becomes concerned when he sees she’s not eating and wasn’t the original guest that was supposed to attend his seating.

Fiennes has always had a flair for comedy and excels at the ultra-dry kind we see here. Eventually, things are revealed that nudge the film in another, darker direction, but the less said you this, the better. Like Succession, there’s a great deal of loathing infused into the film for the 1%, with the movie ultimately a kind of warning about how those in the service industry are exploited to the point that it breaks them. FX’s The Bear raises some of the same issues (in a gut-wrenchingly real way), but The Menu takes it in a more satirical, heightened direction, with it becoming apparent as the film goes on that this is thoroughly intended to be the last meal Fiennes’ Slowik ever serves…or that his guests ever eat.

It’s funny how much The Menu feels like perhaps the darkest episode of Succession ever, as it would be easy to imagine the Roy family being Slowik’s guest for an evening, with $1200 bucks a dinner not out of the question for them (“what are we eating, Rolexes?” asks Margot). Hopefully, the trailers won’t give away too many of the surprises in store for Slowik’s guests, as part of the movie’s power comes from how unpredictable it is throughout. It’s a movie to see without knowing too much about it beyond the basic premise, but for me, it was one of the best highlights of what’s already been a strong showing for TIFF post-pandemic.

Searchlight Pictures has announced the release date for the thriller The Menu, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes.

The Menu



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.