TIFF ’22: ‘The Menu’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Films featuring restaurant owners, chefs and critics alike have always been under-appreciated. These films offer a different lens of understanding how difficult it can be to get into the culinary business and it’s always fascinating. The Menu deliciously serves an original concept that incorporates many moving parts and will keep you at the edge of your seat until it’s done. We meet a young couple Margo (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) who travel to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises. It is the one film this year that feels so unfamiliar and is not bad. 

Once the characters get seated for the meal director Mark Mylod does a wonderful job keeping everyone in the frame. Each couple is seated at a table and has their own issues. Multiple conversations are happening at once, and you’re able to get to know these characters quite easily. Mylod’s attention to detail inside and outside of the kitchen made for such an intriguing mystery. Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) at Hawthorne’s planned a menu for his guests that co-writers Will Tracy and Seth Reiss worked into the structure of the film. The way Mylod directed each scene with the following course, while still assembling the development of these characters on screen was a real treat. 

The cast was really strong because they worked to the strengths of their characters. Taylor-Joy is always a delight to watch on-screen and Hoult barely gets the recognition when he has a good script to work with. Fiennes was unhinged as Chef Slowik and he was probably the most interesting to watch because of the commentary on criticism in the culinary industry. Apart from this story descending into madness, it’s also very funny because of how the characters interact with one another. How do these privileged people all have secrets of their own as they’ve clawed their way up to the top? Slowik creates the perfect menu to have these characters reflect on their life as they enjoy the near-perfect meal. 

The Menu is one of the most refreshing original concepts for a story that you will watch this year. Every single course presents a surprise and changes the dynamic of the characters. It’s such a fun watch because of how unpredictable it becomes. Every course is also beautifully shot to make the meal look delicious, but most importantly, the meal comes with a story. Each character then has a different perspective of the course and its meaning of it. That story is then suited for the overarching concept of the menu itself. Mark Mylod was able to make a posh culinary drama while taking the concept of criticism and flipping it on its head. 

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