Movie Review: “The Menu” – Journal & Topics Media Group
“Le menu” (106 min, rated R for strong/disturbing violent content, pervasive language and some sexual references). 4 out of 10
This will be a fairly short review of this rather outrageous and mostly nasty movie (pardon the pun) that you know, based on its initial premise, and the way it’s presented by the trailers, is going to get dark… very dark . Not only does “The Menu” go dark, it goes macabre like a disreputable vengeful, malevolent black comedy (I’m going back to that) with no apparent upside – if anything, taking a punch at the filthy rich.
While that was the goal or intent of screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and director Mark Mylod, it’s all murky and unclear as to the motivation behind what appears to be the disappearance of 12 diners lured to a small, remote island. to dine on the best cuisine in the world. It’s a movie that should have redeeming value when all is said and done – but it doesn’t… and neither is the punishment meted out to those unsuspecting guests. If it’s about teaching them a lesson simply because of who they are – filthy rich – then why not punish other levels of the social stratum as well? The impressive cast includes Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, John Leguizamo, among others, but especially Ralph Fiennes… all unlikable characters. Only Anya Taylor-Joy is portrayed in a positive light, and she’s no moral angel. This is how the story is framed.
Twelve guests arrive by shuttle boat to a nearby offshore island in the Pacific Northwest where celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Fiennes) will prepare an elaborate multi-course dinner. It costs $1,250 per person, which isn’t much considering it includes the boat ride, unlimited vintage wine, and tip. You can tell from the start that all of these people are hiding something or are guilty of some past digression that the leader is going to humble them…or maybe with their lives. The kitchen staff consists mainly of burly young men who could serve as guards or perhaps henchmen to entrap their guests. Once the chef gradually gets weirder and weirder as he introduces his eclectic dishes, it’s clear he’s off his rocker. Only Margot (Taylor-Joy) is the odd one out in the bunch… she’s not cut from the same cloth and is essentially penniless.
Once the story starts to darken halfway through, it’s all downhill trying to figure out the leader’s folly in using these people to set an example as human bait. And why his staff would willingly follow this psychotic maniac until what could lead to their death is unfathomable. The only sane character in the film is, yes, Margot, whom Slowik singles out, citing her humble origins as the reason to “eventually” spare her. For all of its sardonic and dark passages, I saw no lesson learned or moral judgment to justify the extreme measures taken against these unfortunate victims simply because of their position in life.
Note: the best scene is the double-cheeseburger prepared by the chef. This is a burger to enjoy!
“The Menu” opens in theaters November 18.