Combustible Celluloid Review - The Menu (2022), Seth Reiss, Will Tracy, Mark Mylod, Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, John Leguizamo, Aimee Carrero, Reed Birney, Judith Light, Rebecca Koon, Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, Peter Grosz, Christina Brucato, Adam Aalderks, Matthew Cornwell
Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Paul Adelstein, John Leguizamo, Aimee Carrero, Reed Birney, Judith Light, Rebecca Koon, Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, Peter Grosz, Christina Brucato, Adam Aalderks, Matthew Cornwell
Written by: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Directed by: Mark Mylod
MPAA Rating: R for strong/disturbing violent content, language throughout and some sexual references
Running Time: 106
Date: 11/18/2022
IMDB

The Menu (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dine Day

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's complete nonsense, but the pitch-dark horror-comedy The Menu strikes just the right notes of stone-cold humor and red-hot malevolence, and makes for a delectable dish that satisfies all the way down.

Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) prepare for an evening's dining at the exclusive Hawthorne facility, where a meal costs $1250 per person. Tyler is a passionate foodie and a huge fan of Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), who runs the place. Only 12 customers in total will be dining tonight, and this specific menu is designed to tell a specific story.

Things begin to seem strange when the staff discover that Margot is not on the reservation list (she's taking the place of Tyler's ex-girlfriend), and stranger still when the guests are given a bread plate with no bread. But when a sous chef presents his creation as one of the courses, and then shoots himself in the head, the guests truly begin to wonder if it's all part of the show, or if something more sinister is cooking.

In The Menu, the guests, as Chef Julian points out directly, never make much of an attempt to save themselves, but even though viewers might find this frustrating, some truth to the situation lies in their combination of sheer disbelief and a sense of decorum. Nevertheless, the movie's wicked genius lies not only in its execution but also in its ultimate themes. As the food keeps coming and small things are revealed, some of the guests continue to enjoy the show and eat; it's a fascinating psychological and social experiment. Where does perception end and reality begin?

And, even though the ultimate plan in The Menu is a whopper of a doozy, the theme behind it is a thoughtful exploration of art, artists, and their complex relationship with consumers. The movie balances its gut-level humor and horror with its higher-minded themes with a twinkle in its eye and a gleam of its blade.

Fiennes plays the chef with a clever restraint and even a bit of fatigue (he recalls, ever so slightly, his take on Voldemort), forgoing the hints of madness that many other actors usually choose for villain roles. And Taylor-Joy projects strength and independence, indignant when her date tries to shush her by snapping his fingers. ("Did you just SNAP at me?"). And director Mark Mylod, a small-screen veteran from Severance and Game of Thrones, keeps the small-scale, one-location movie feeling fluid and kinetic. Overall, it's a palate-pleaser.

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