Some movies have so much packed in that they may have worked better as a mini-series. Others have a concept that’s stretched too far, and would be better served as a short film.
“The Menu” is an example of the latter.
The movie centers on a couple going to an island that’s home to an exclusive restaurant. The establishment is run by the laser-focused Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), a man who demands perfection in his kitchen.
The couple is Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), and they are just a few of the wealthy guests who go to the island expecting the fanciest of fancy meals. However, Slowik has much more intense things on the menu for his affluent customers than just food.
As stated in the lede, this is a concept that could have been better suited for a short film, considering how the movie plays out. We as the audience watch a menu item get served to the rich patrons of the restaurant, which often includes something that relates to them personally and reveals their dark side.
It plays with their heads and freaks them out a bit before they settle and get ready for the next course. This keeps happening again and again, becoming a repetitive cycle that one grows weary of. It’s a fine idea, but needed to be expanded on.
The only wild card featured is Taylor-Joy’s character, who just recently started dating Tyler and wasn’t on the original guest list. Her character is also in the service industry which Slowik notices and acknowledges.
Initially, this adds a bit of intrigue, but overall it doesn’t really change the course of where the movie is going. Outside of two notable scenes with her character, one in the second act and another in the third, her inclusion doesn’t stop the film from continuing on its own repetitive route.
The fact is, the movie can only make the point about how these wealthy people are out of touch, mean-spirited and unethical so many times before it loses effectiveness. That’s not to say it becomes unwatchable, but it certainly feels like the movie steadily runs out of steam as it goes on.
The movie possibly could have avoided this if more perspectives than the guests were given. For example, if the audience could see more of what the staff at the restaurant was thinking. It could have been an interesting dynamic with the staff giving their true thoughts on the guests present, in a sort of dark spin on 2005’s “Waiting.”
That’s not to say something like that would fix everything, but there needed to be some kind of outlet beyond just these rich people reacting to the situation. Either that, or have Taylor-Joy’s character go through a full on escape adventure where she has to fight off killer cooks as the meal is taking place inside. Just mix it up a bit, if the movie’s going to be nearly two hours.
Despite the criticisms, “The Menu” isn’t a total loss at all, far from it. The movie has entertaining moments, keeps a tense atmosphere and it looks really slick. Plus, Ralph Fiennes is, unsurprisingly, really good as a cold, calculating villain.
A supporting cast with the likes of Hoult, Taylor-Joy, Hong Chau, John Leguizamo and Janet McTeer helps make this a movie with some personality. Overall, it’s a watchable feature, but not one that can grip its audience fully from start to finish. It works better as a rental, 2.75 out of 5.