Obscenely rich diners looking for a one-of-a-kind eating experience get their wish in The Menu.
Money, it is said, can’t buy happiness, but piles too large to count can open doors that few mere mortals will ever get the chance to see, let alone pass through. Such is the case for securing an invitation to the most exclusive restaurant of the über-rich: Hawthorne. Its patrons are lavished with the latest food creations of renowned celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), crafted to perfection with his small army of ultra-loyal staff.
Slowik obsesses over every detail in his goal to raise food to the level of fine art. His eatery thrives on the belief that the meal is just one part of a much larger concept. Tonight, the guests of Hawthorne will be treated to an artistic abstraction beyond their wildest expectations.
This is a feast for which I would gladly tip enough to feed a small family. Few films this year have satiated me as fully as this one. I eagerly lapped up every last morsel it laid out before me, and I’d have ordered seconds had that been an option.
The story’s first course tingled my senses from the very first whiff. My hunger for more only grew from there. Every facet of this tale benefits from the same attention to detail that clearly haunts its pressure-cooked celebrity chef. Absolutely nothing and absolutely no one are out of place. Set pieces, camera work and soundtrack all combine to conjure up the perfect atmosphere.
The Menu follows a similar deconstruction of the pomposity of the 1% among us as in the recent Triangle of Sadness, but in a more approachable, complete package. It’s a delight that’s a must-see for anyone in the food service industry, but one that can be enjoyed by all except, perhaps, those in the 1% who might be lacking in self-deprecating humor.
This peek behind the plates starts with the pedantic pronouncements of the lead chef (Fiennes giving an another award-worthy performance). His deadpan presentation is both sedate and sinister at the same time. His staff snap instantly to his every unquestioned utterance. The world hasn’t seen this kind of dedication to organization since the Nazis stormed into Poland.
The tables at Slowik’s restaurant burst with fascinating foodies, all of whom you get to know in much greater detail well before the check arrives. Among them is a mystery guest played expertly by Anya Taylor-Joy. Every critic in the industry is running out of adjectives to describe her seemingly limitless talent. Also well worth noticing are Aimee Carrero as the wiser-than-she-acts girlfriend of a reality show star (John Leguizamo) and Hong Chau as the restaurant’s iron-willed, below-zero-nonsense hostess.
The only serving that gave me pause was during the very final act when things sway ever so slightly out of the delicious confines of taut tension and into a brief, more formulaic horror treatment. However, it was hardly enough to put me off my meal. This dinner easily deserves the five stars that I’m giving it. I just wish that I could make them Michelin stars.