• Release Date: – 18/11/2022
  • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult
  • Director: Mark Mylod  

“The Menu” starts with a bang. There is a constant sense of dread and something sinister lurking in the air that only the diners at the luxury restaurant seem oblivious to. The moment the chef of the film makes his appearance and presents the first course of the meal, it becomes apparent that there is something terrible coming for the diners. I was intrigued, and hooked and I wanted it to be something shattering or larger than life but as the director pulls layer after layer from the mystery it becomes apparent with every subsequent reveal that the film will get progressively worse with every reveal. Finally, it ends in a climax that was not only uninspiring but also ensured that the truckload of questions left behind by the story didn’t even get an excuse for an answer. The result is a film that looks gorgeous and is well-acted but ultimately pointless and vain.

In “The Menu”, Celebrity Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) runs the most exclusive and exquisite restaurant that is accessible only to the rich, famous, powerful, and lucky. The restaurant is located on a secluded island and is completely self-sustaining. Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) is a massive fan of Slowik and apparently a student of the culinary arts. He lands a chance invitation to the restaurant and his plus one is Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy). She is just as disinterested in the unimaginable hype that Tyler is building around the dinner and the experience surrounding it as she is in the shameless display of snobbery and self-importance that the other guests quickly rub on each other’s faces. The dinner service starts and with each course, it gets progressively bizarre. Soon a time comes when the safety and sanity of the guests at the dinner are questioned and they are forced to ask why Chef Slowik was doing what he was doing.

I knew what to expect from this film from its promotional materials. I knew that the chef would eventually threaten the safety and security of the guests because of some out-of-the-world idea or reason. What was important was for the makers to develop the plot in such a way that the aforementioned actions of the chef made some sense and his inspirations to do the same were not ill-placed. It also had to be backed by solid reason and it all had to be thrilling and believable. The threats needed to be genuine. The guests had to be in genuine danger. The characters needed to be killed off in a phased manner building up tension with each kill. There needed to be order and explanation behind every kill and in what order it was executed.

The makers also had to ensure that the audiences forged a certain connection with the characters involved so that when they are threatened, the proceedings get even more thrilling. The characters at the receiving end of the brutalities needed to make a genuine effort to escape. They needed to be vocal and since there were so many of them, they could easily try to be a lot more physical. The people in the chef’s team and why they were helping him to do something so dangerous also had to be explained and these characters needed to be fleshed out to a certain extent. If not all, at least the ones who get centrestage for a finite duration. Shockingly, these key elements of the narrative are ignored completely in the film resulting in an experience that feels grandiose and sporadically entertaining and thrilling but ultimately pointless and vain. For me it was too abstract to make even a semblance of impact or sense.   

I was shocked by how easily the victims surrendered to their fate. When faced with certain death, they should have tried to escape a lot harder leading to some thrilling exchanges. The only effort that they are shown putting is when Slowik lets them run for their lives. They are all subsequently caught and return to the restaurant without any serious fuss. Worse is the case that, none of them ever cares to ask Slowik why he was doing what he was doing to them. A few times when the question is raised, Slowik lets loose a barrage of philosophical nonsense that no one genuinely questions as if they were all transfixed by Ralph Fiennes’s silken voice and better still performance.
The members of Slowik’s team work for him like members of a cult. It is never explained why they are so dedicated to him. It is also never addressed why they are so disillusioned with their lives that they choose to take such extreme steps. Also, there are atleast two members who are shown doing some extreme things for which we never get any explanations. It would have served the film well had there been some reasoning behind these people doing the things that they are shown doing.  

Amid all this chaos, Anya Taylor-Joy’s Margot is the only character with whom I was able to connect to a certain extent. She voiced everything about the story, characters, and proceedings that were going on in my head and hence she became the voice of the audience in the film. Sadly, how her character is treated in the end and what happens to her left me perplexed. There is some reason given for the way the story goes for her but that reason was not enough to explain the insane twist that saves her a great deal of pain and agony.  

Anya Taylor-Joy is superb in her essay and so is Ralph Fiennes, Nicolas Hoult, and every other member of the ensemble cast. It must be told that it is the power of the performances that kept me hooked on the narrative. It was because of how wonderful the performances were that made the discrepancies in the writing and the screenplay digestible. If the performances were not this great, the loopholes in the plot and the execution would have been a lot more pronounced.

I wanted to like this film. It had the potential to be great and the sheer insanity of what happens in the film if backed by proper logic and sound reason would have propelled it into being one of the best films of last year. Unfortunately, the loopholes in the narrative and execution were too pronounced for me to ignore. While I loved the presentation, cinematography, and performances in the film, it was a lot more underwhelming than I would have liked it to be. 

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)   

The views expressed in this article are that of the reviewer and do not in any way or form reflect EastMojo’s position.

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