‘The Menu’: A deliciously dark full-course meal

I was actually counting down the days until “The Menu” premiered on HBO Max so I could finally see Anya Taylor-Joy’s red hair in action.

Released a few short months after “Glass Onion” in a time where everyone is unabashedly starved for their next “Knives Out” fix, “The Menu” is a delicious mix of horror and comedy.

The film follows a young couple — mysterious Margot (Taylor-Joy) and food devotee Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) — as they travel to a remote, private island for an exclusive dinner at celebrity chef Julian Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes) restaurant. 

With them travels a motley crew made up of arrogant food critics, wealthy restaurant regulars, washed-up movie stars, crooked business partners and tired assistants. Everything seems as ordinarily pretentious as you would assume it to be until it is revealed that Margot was not Tyler’s original guest for the evening, throwing an unforeseen wrench into Chef Slowik’s secret plan for that night’s menu.

I do not want to spoil this movie for you all as it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride, but I will say that I think this is the first movie where I assumed there was going to be cannibalism depicted because of the trailer and was genuinely surprised that there wasn’t in the final cut — a testament to the film’s creativity. Another cannibal movie this year after Luca Guadagnino’s “Bones and All” would have definitely oversaturated the market for whoever wants to see that, so I applaud the choice.

Another perfect choice “The Menu” made was casting Hoult as the selfishly deceitful, obsequious fan to Fiennes’ “food god,” and after seeing how Hoult is two for two in his perfect portrayal of frustratingly narcissistic, petulant little men after “The Great,” I think he has found his niche.

“The Menu” is an allegory in the most literal sense of the word, and is almost better when it leans fully into that directness. It is a film about the loss of one’s passion for their craft, the commercialization of what once was one’s source of joy and the exploitation of artisans by the ultra rich who consume their creations as a type of currency symbolizing status.

While these themes could have been explored in a more implied way, what I think “The Menu” did right was ending the film as ridiculously on the nose as it could with an amusingly camp final course to an amazingly tension-building tasting menu.

On a side note: finally seeing the scene behind Taylor-Joy’s viral feminine rage interview was as satisfying as you could imagine, and could stand on its own as the only reason to see this movie.

Rating: 5/5