The Menu Is Fine Cinematic Dining

I’ve been looking forward to The Menu for a while now. I first heard about it back in May when the trailer caught me by surprise in a theater, and it’s been on my most-anticipated list ever since. I booked a seat for opening night as soon as tickets went on sale, and now, after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m happy to say that it’s just as good as I was expecting.

The Menu was directed by Mark Mylod, and it features a huge ensemble cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, and John Leguizamo. It’s about a young couple that attends a super exclusive (and super expensive!) restaurant for dinner one night, but unbeknownst to them, the head chef has prepared a very special night of horrific shocks and surprises.

Admittedly, that probably sounds really vague, but I can’t say any more about the plot without spoiling it. One of the best things about The Menu is all the unexpected twists and turns the story takes, and I’d be remiss if I ruined them for you. See, the marketing made this film look like it would probably be just another twist on “The Most Dangerous Game,” but I assure you, there’s so much more to it than just that.

In fact, that’s not what the movie is about at all. Sure, it shares a bit of DNA with that classic story, but other than a handful of mostly superficial similarities, it’s actually very different. The plot I got wasn’t at all the plot I was expecting, and that was a huge part of the reason why I loved it so much. Once the first big surprise hit, this film kept me guessing the entire rest of the way, and I found that uncertainty absolutely captivating.

Two people talking in a kitchen

That being said, The Menu isn’t just a smorgasbord of twists and surprises. It also gave me a few things I was expecting, and those more predictable elements were also excellent. For starters, we have the gorgeous cinematography. To be fair, it’s not hard to make beautifully prepared food look good, so this movie might have a slight advantage over most others in that regard. But it’s not just the dishes themselves that look stunning.

It’s also the way those dishes are positioned on the tables, the way the cooks are arranged in the kitchen, and even the way they prepare the food. This entire movie is gorgeous, so even when nothing particularly interesting is happening on screen, the cinematography alone is worth the price of admission.

On top of that, The Menu is also a hilarious black comedy that absolutely skewers high-end and upper-class tastes, and it made me literally laugh out loud from beginning to end. Granted, that style of comedy isn’t for everyone, so if you don’t like dry, satirical humor, you probably won’t get much out of this movie. But if that’s your thing, I think you’re really going to enjoy the jokes here.

And speaking of satire, the message of this film is another reason why I loved it so much. It’s admittedly a bit one-note, but the note it hits is pitch-perfect. The movie is all about how “high-class” culture is often just a bunch of ridiculous nonsense that completely misses the whole point of living, and it uses its humor to convey that message very effectively.

Food served on a plate with rocks

In fact, The Menu is almost too effective at times. It’s very on the nose, so if you’re looking for subtlety, you’re not going to find it here. Truth be told, the film’s message is so in your face that I think some people are going to find it a bit annoying. Sure, it didn’t bother me, but it’s definitely something to be aware of before watching this movie.

Next, let’s talk a bit about the performances. The entire cast here is great, but I have to give special mention to Ralph Fiennes (the head chef), Anya Taylor-Joy, and Nicholas Hoult (the main couple). They’re the heart and soul of this story, and they’re fantastic. They imbue their characters with a believability that made me buy into them from the moment they were introduced, and my love for them just kept on growing until the very last frame. The Menu is simply a tour de force of acting, so much like the great cinematography, these awesome performances also kept my eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end.

Last but not least, we have the horror. Sometimes it’s quick and unexpected, and other times it’s slow and almost painful, but either way, it’s always really effective. Granted, it’s not exactly scary, but it’ll get under your skin and creep you out in a way few mainstream genre films can. It’s a really refreshing change of pace from the typical jump-scare-driven horror we normally get from Hollywood, and I absolutely loved it.

On the negative side, I have to be honest, there wasn’t much about The Menu that I didn’t like. Sure, there are a few things I could nitpick here and there, but they’re not really worth discussing. This movie just gets so much right that I didn’t care about its minor flaws, and if you give it a shot, I think you’ll probably feel the same way. It’s one of the best horror movies of the year, so if you’re on the prowl for something good to watch, I highly recommend that you check this one out.

The Menu is playing in theaters right now.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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