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  • Debbie Cerda

THE MENU Delivers a Culinary Experience to Remember

The Menu is a suspenseful and intriguing comedy/thriller starring Ralph Fiennes as the enigmatic head chef of an exclusive restaurant in remote Sweden. Director Mark Mylod and writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy offer a darkly satirical view of the subculture of molecular gastronomy and food criticism, as well as the decadence of wealth and power.

The film follows a group of wealthy and powerful guests who have been invited to the restaurant to sample a new and innovative menu. As the night unfolds, tensions rise and secrets are revealed, leading to a gripping and unpredictable finale.

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) travel together to a coastal island in the Pacific Northwest to eat at Hawthorn, an ultra-exclusive restaurant. Helmed by reclusive, globally celebrated Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Chef Slowik has prepared a lavish tasting menu for select special guests.

Other guests include three “tech bros”, Bryce (Rob Yang), Soren (Arturo Castro) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr); an older wealthy couple and repeat clients, Anne and Richard (Judith Light and Reed Birney); renowned restaurant critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer) and her magazine editor Ted (Paul Adelstein); and a middle-aged B-movie star (John Leguizamo) with his personal assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero).

Hosted by the immaculately dressed front of house staff which is led by general Elsa (Hong Chau), the evening unfolds with increasing tension at each of the guest tables as secrets are revealed and unexpected courses are served. As astonishing and grisly events transpire, Slowik’s calm delivery and unspoken motivation disturbs his guests. It becomes apparent that his elaborate menu is designed to culminate in a “once in a lifetime” climatic culinary finale.

Ralph Fiennes is excellent in his role in The Menu as the Chef, exuding a quiet intensity and a sense of danger that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. He is well-matched by Anya Taylor-Joy as she gives a strong performance, adding depth and complexity to their characters. Chau is brilliantly stoic in her portrayal as a precise timekeeper and guardian of the front of house. The rest of the ensemble cast are dynamic in their perspective roles playing unscrupulous people.

Director Mark Mylod masterfully builds tension throughout The Menu, using striking visuals and a haunting score to create an eerie and unsettling atmosphere. The remote location of the restaurant adds to the sense of isolation and claustrophobia, heightening the sense of danger as the night wears on for the dinner guests.

The Menu is a thought-provoking cinematic piece that will have viewers questioning the motivation and choices of food critics and chefs, as well as themselves. "The Menu" is a deliciously dark feast that should satiate fans of films like Eating Raoul (1982), The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989), and La Grande Bouffe (1973). My preference is the more wholesome and filling culinary creations in Stanley Tucci’s Big Night (1996).


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