Star Rating:

The Menu

Director: Mark Mylod

Actors: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult

Release Date: Friday 18th November 2022

Genre(s): Comedy, Thriller

Running time: 106 minutes


Black comedy and satire are enjoying a moment. It may be that entering into the final stages of capitalism and, consequently, humanity's custody of this planet, has brought about a prevailing sense of nihilism. It could be that we're all just fed up trying to pretend anymore and continuing on with the kind of social niceties and structures isn't worth it. Whatever the reason, 'The Menu' is attempting to speak to the moment. But where the likes of Ruben Ostlund's ' Triangle of Sadness ' was firing indiscriminately and mostly landing on target, 'The Menu' tries to be surgical in its approach, but ultimately ends up cutting itself in the process.

For starters, many of the characters in 'The Menu' are vague archetypes rather than fully realised beings, and they're pretty obvious ones at that. There's The Finance Bros, The Celebrity, The Critic, The Rich Couple, The Foodie, yet it's Ralph Fiennes' chef towering over all like a vengeful god. He slaps his hands and demands attention from everyone - and gets it. Fiennes is used to playing tyrants, so it's no surprise that he fits into the role of a Culinary Jim Jones like a glove. He dominates the room and the screen, and when the supporting cast tries to upbraid him for his increasingly terrifying antics, it's fascinating to see him remain implacable and utterly committed to his appointed task. Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor-Joy play off each other well as the committed foodie and the audience surrogate, Hoult's preening fanboy behaviour is cringe-inducing and hilarious in equal measure.

Beyond these, the cast peters out in terms of effect or impact. John Leguizamo plays a reasonable approximation of every Hollywood celebrity douchebag stereotype you can think of, while the trio of finance bros are as one-dimensional as you'd expect. Janet McTeer and Paul Adelstein are a double-act as a critic and editor, but it's all pretty one-note between them. Of all the supporting cast, Hong Chau, who plays the maître'd of the restaurant, stands out as a kind of high priestess in the ceremony.

Unsurprisingly, director Mark Mylod and co-writer Will Tracy are alums of HBO's ' Succession ', and there's the same caustic humour in that as there is here in 'The Menu'. Yet unlike ' Succession ', it lacks subtlety and texture. It doesn't have any of the wit or sharpness, nor does it feature characters as lucidly realised as the Roy family. Mylod's direction is clean and efficient. There's a real sense of place and production design, and the cutaways featuring the meals are an enjoyable rip on high cuisine bullshit.

'The Menu' is full of sharp flavours, and Ralph Fiennes' performance is the cherry on top. While the presentation overall is strong and there is some bite to it, 'The Menu' can't escape the fact that it's a bit less than the sum of its ingredients.