The culture of haute cuisine gets thoroughly roasted in this sharp satire from director Mark Mylod (Succession), starring Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit) and Ralph Fiennes, about a destination-dining experience with unexpected surprises.
The culture of haute cuisine gets thoroughly roasted in director Mark Mylod’s sizzling satire about a destination dining experience seasoned with surprises that get spicier with every plating. Assembling a sumptuous ensemble led by Anya Taylor-Joy (star of TIFF ’15 standout The Witch) and Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes, The Menu offers us a seat at the table with some one-percenters about to be served more than they bargained for.
A 12-acre self-contained farm-to-table paradise, Hawthorne Island represents the pinnacle of exclusive eats, serving celebrities and billionaires who think nothing of forking out $1,250 a head. The outliers in this evening’s clientele are Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a devout foodie pilgrim, and his date, Margot (Taylor-Joy), a layperson along for the free meal. Once seated before Hawthorne’s open-concept kitchen, they are welcomed by Chef (Fiennes), who precedes each course with a monologue. He instructs them to taste, rather than eat. And absolutely no photos: the true beauty of food, Chef explains, lies in its ephemerality.
Among the guests are a washed-up movie star (John Leguizamo), a tastemaking restaurant critic (Janet McTeer), and a trio of tech bros. What they all have in common are meaty secrets that each new dish hints at exposing. Only Margot seems immune to Hawthorne’s menu of manipulation — and only she seems able to spot the vulnerability concealed beneath Chef’s cultivated air of superiority.
Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, The Menu is loaded with wild twists enhanced by Mylod’s playfully ominous camerawork and inventive intertitles. As this foodie fantasy gradually transforms into a culinary nightmare, we come to savour the film’s brilliantly sinister pairings of status and guilt.
Content advisory: graphic content