Tonight’s course is laughs with a side of blood.
I can tell “The Menu” would be a gourmet cooking horror satire that requires people to be the main course. But maybe not in the way I’m describing it. Dinner is served in courses, ones that start off as small portions and ends up dealing with the rich and powerful.
It’s funny that twice this Fall I’ve seen entertaining dark comedies about how the rich get their comeuppance in wickedly funny ways, and seafood is served. “Triangle of Sadness” had people vomiting after eating oysters during a storm on a cruise, up to the point of a small portion of them being stranded on an island. And now, “The Menu” takes place on an island, but inside a fancy restaurant that promises the rich that they’ll die tonight.
Ralph Fiennes stars as celebrity chef Julian Slowick, who has to make sure tonight goes according to plan. He can’t serve bread on his molecular gastronomy menu, and tells people to “not eat,” but taste and absorb the pure magic his culinary arts have to offer. He specializes in having a classy attitude, as demonstrated in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and as a villain, he doesn’t cater to his “Harry Potter” fans. He’s a villain poisoned by society and how he knows when to be an ambitious artist.
His hostess is Elsa (Hong Chau), who follows the rules accordingly, and keeps a patient disposition to pull whatever evil deed the night will offer.
The guests arriving consist of an unfaithful husband (Reed Birney) and his wife (Judith Light), a group of businessmen (Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, and Rob Yang) with illegal activities, a food critic (Janet McTeer) and her editor (Paul Adelstein), a celebrity (John Leguizamo) and his assistant (Aimee Carrero), and Slowick’s biggest fan Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy).
Actually, Margot isn’t from a rich background, and is a last minute guest, since Tyler’s cancelled. She becomes Slowick’s biggest flaw in his plans.
Like “Ready or Not,” the movie uses a young actress to become the hero of the story that requires murder in a lavish place. Taylor-Joy has the eyes, disposition, and attitude to thrive on whatever the story has to offer. It’s also ideal considering that her date is a selfish jerk, who takes pictures of his plate, and cares more about his idol than her.
Parts of the story, which I’d rather not spoil because I recommend it, don’t have much payoff, but most of it is delicious and devilish. Director Mark Mylod (“Succession”), writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, and producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are able to present a classy horror comedy that wants to punish the rich-some of which are more corrupt than others-and knows how to tickle the audience without acting so tedious.
Thanks to the performances from the cast-with second helpings coming from Fiennes, Taylor-Joy, and Chau-we’re able to see the true colors inside these characters. There’s originality in the deaths, with the best coming at the end, and there’s style with the look and feel of “The Menu.”
I’m no food critic, but I do know good food when I see them. This kind of cooking is too fancy for my tastes. And like Woody Harrelson in “Triangle of Sadness,” I think I’ll go for a burger and fries. But I am a film critic who knows good movies when I see them, and this one is bloody good. You better wash your hands before you eat. But you’re not gonna survive dinner, so why am I telling you that? LOL.