Jacob James reviews The Menu
Ever wondered what would happen if Gordon Ramsay decided to host an event that was one part Midsommar and other part Dangerous Game? Well, you are in for a treat.
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between, I have returned. Yes, the kind folks at the Orbit Cinema have kindly released me from the basement prison they’ve been keeping me in. It wasn’t that bad, they let me have the leftover popcorn at the end of the day. But enough about my time in the basement, it’s time to do a review. And after surviving on only popcorn for the last few months, I want a film related to food. So, let’s dig in (GET IT?!) to The Menu.
Ok, let’s start with the negatives, mainly because I have a few that I want to get off my chest. Firstly, whilst you think the limited number of cast members would mean that all characters would be equally developed… I can only think of four of which I truly got a grasp. Those being Chef Slowlk (Ralph Fiennes), Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), and the movie star credited as Movie Star (John Leguizamo) and Felicity (Aimee Carrero). (Also, just a side note, Leguizamo claims to base his character on Steven Seagal, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he based it on himself). Everyone else has one thing of note and that’s about it for their characters. Oh, those guys are doing shady business, that man is cheating on his wife, that guy is a simp for Chef, etc.
I’ve seen a lot of people compare this film to Midsommar, which is a fair comparison. And similar to that film I feel like while a casual audience could go and understand it, there’s also a deeper meaning to it that you only really get on repeat viewings.
Little spoiler for the film, so if you don’t want to get spoiled, skip this paragraph. Gone? Good. So, at one point in the film, one of Chef’s chefs commits suicide in front of the guest. He lands on a tarp, into which he then gets wrapped and taken into the back by the others. As soon as I saw that, I thought “Ok, Chekhov’s gun” (or should it be Chekhov’s body?). Later on, the chefs are going to serve something meat related and the twist is that they’re eating the chef. And then… that never happened. I do give the filmmakers credit for not going down the Soylent Green path, but I just thought it was a bit weird how it basically just went “the chef’s dead, wrapped up, carried off screen and that’s the end for them.”
Ok, now onto the positive side. While I bashed the fact the cast has very little to do in terms of character development, I will say everyone brings their all acting-wise. Worth noting is Ralph Fiennes, who is perfectly able to have a calm demeanour while also bottling up a lot of fragmenting emotions underneath. I also think this film has a lot of good dark comedy. Dark comedy (like most comedy) is very hard to get right. If you don’t go too far, then it’s nearly dark enough to be counted as a dark comedy. Go too far and you end up being Family Guy. This film hits just perfectly in the middle of going too far and not going far enough.
And of course, if we’re talking about The Menu, we’ve got to give a mention to the food. The food was created by Dominique Crenn and boy, it does look like some weird fancy food I would get served if I was the 1%. I also like the little title cards that pop up when a dish is being served with the ingredients listed underneath. That being said, if I was given a dish of weird little colours instead of bread, I would walk straight out of the restaurant. I don’t care if I get killed — I want my roll of bread, damn it.
In conclusion, while it does have its flaws, I think The Menu is a good film. While I can see some bashing it for not making a whole lot of sense on the first go, I do think a lot of the more general audience will understand the surface level plot enough to enjoy it. As for those who aren’t satisfied, I’ll say they should probably go and see it again. There’s no real harm in going to see the same film twice after all. The Menu gets an 8/10 from me. Now, after reviewing a film about fancy food, I want to eat some garbage. So, if you excuse me, I’m off to McDonald’s.