The couple Margot and Tyler visit the world’s most exclusive restaurant on the island of chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes): $ 1,250 per cover. They hardly know each other: Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) was hired at the last minute as a companion by Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a culinary groupie. Chef Slowik is known for his theatrical gestures: every menu tells a story. His staff looks like a cult and Slowik is very compelling and sinister tonight.
The Menu is a doom thriller; the outcome soon suggests itself, the mood shifts smoothly from amused curiosity via vague discomfort to swelling panic. Chef Slowik tightens the thumbscrews with every course. At first people laugh it off: such a talentless chef who shoots himself in the head is surely a ‘special effect’?
Until a guest wants to leave and the relationships become clear. Slowik is on a punitive expedition against the elite: arrogant bankers, a snooty movie star, a bumbling rich man and an overbearing culinary critic. Each dinner guest is carefully selected.
At the same time it is a satire on culinary fetishism: on the cult of the chef and on haute cuisine so refined that it only produces constipation. No one does it for pleasure: the dinner guests do not so much want good food, but an exclusive ‘experience’ to brag about, chef Slowik cooks not out of love but out of obsessive perfectionism.
Slowik is such a twisted sadistic Lord Voldemort performance that Fiennes does not turn his hand around: a feast for the eyes. He is a Hannibal Lecter and Anton Ego-type avenger from Disneys Ratatouille: bad taste bothers him more than injustice.
Only the feline, razor-sharp Anya Taylor-Joy can match him as Margot. As an uninvited guest, she doesn’t fit into this control freak’s big plan. Slowik wants to force her to make a choice: boss or servant?
Very creepy or sharp makes this the satire The Menu not, but entertaining and with the suspense of a star menu. What’s on the table in the next course? Or who?View an overview of our movie reviews
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of November 23, 2022