12 December 2022

An obsessive chef dines out on revenge in The Menu

| Marcus Kelson
Start the conversation
Ralph Fiennes in promotional movie image

Ralph Fiennes stars as an obsessive chef bent on revenge in The Menu. Photo: Supplied.

Films that revolve around food usually centre on one of two themes: the loving recreation of a period through smells and tastes that emulates the time in which it was set (Babette’s Feast, Chocolat) or, alternatively, the angry chef who’s lost his temper, and starts from scratch, trying to regain his confidence and reputation.

Less likely is a movie about an obsessive chef who seeks revenge on the people he believes have somehow betrayed or ridiculed him and who may or may not form part of an extended degustation menu – and yet here we are.

The Menu begins at a dock where a dozen wealthy guests are assembled for a culinary feast at Hawthorne, an exclusive restaurant run on a nearby island by the world-famous chef Julian Slowick (Ralph Fiennes). Although an ensemble cast, the first part of the film focuses on the snobbish and bratty Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his mysterious guest, Margot (Anya Taylor Joy), who we soon discover is an escort.

READ ALSO Crikey! Snake tries to hitch ride in woman’s car but tale has happy ending

Once assembled in the restaurant, the imposing Slowick introduces every menu item with a hand clap and a brief explanation of the food, all sourced from the island itself.

It becomes increasingly apparent, especially by the fourth course, ‘The Mess’, that this is not going to be an ordinary night and people will literally have to argue for their lives.

Slowick wants all the people on the island for a reason. He clearly finds them contemptible and is here to prove a point.

But the Margot character doesn’t fit into the plan. Tyler was supposed to bring his girlfriend, who dumped him before the event. Even though he knew his fate at the hands of the Chef, he was determined to come anyway. If you saw Hoult play Peter III in The Great, he’s essentially channelling that character.

As the film gets darker and more desperate for everyone involved (and I should also mention a lovely cameo by John Leguizamo as a washed-up actor), Margot begins turning the tide on Slowick. He bluntly asks which group she would sooner die with, the staff who have worked to create magic no one appreciates or the pigs who scoff it down without ever realising what it is they are eating.

The dishes become more elaborate as the evening wears on, and everyone, wittingly or not, is forced to play out a predetermined role.

At one point, Margot argues that she wants to return the food because it’s not made with love but obsession. Slowick challenges her but knows, through his very actions, that there is more than a kernel of truth in her assessment.

READ ALSO Sizzling hot Canberra properties

The Menu is not an easy film to watch, to say the least. What happens to a chef who has played out his entire life for the pleasure of the super-wealthy without receiving more than the odd glowing review? Fiennes has more or less blended his serial killer character from Red Dragon with his Coriolanus for this role, and it is thoroughly disturbing.

Taylor Joy brings the visceral intensity we all loved in The Queen’s Gambit and delivers an outstanding performance.

The Menu is directed by Englishman Mark Mylod (Succession, Shameless) and written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracey. In essence, it’s a dark and very satirical horror film mixing gore with fine dining. I thought it was both shocking and disturbingly hilarious, but it may be too rich for other palates.

In terms of films about greed and gluttony and class indulgences, it still lags behind Luis Buñuel’s Exterminating Angel and Marco Fererri’s La Grand Bouffe.

That said, I still think it is worth three and a half stars out of five.

The Menu is screening at all major cinema chains.

Original Article published by Marcus Kelson on Riotact.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.