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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

Criticism: ‘The Menu’: Deliciously dark comedy

Photo by Via IMDb
The Menu

Released on Nov.18, “The Menu” is a witty and energetic dark comedy thriller. More funny than scary, the film works best when it’s not taking itself too seriously, instead offering some delicious satire and twisted fun. It’s a unique class warfare between the elite and its service workers, committed to offering an excellent high-stakes meal. 

Ralph Fiennes stars as Chef Slowik, a presence that looms over the night with a deadly stare and a mannered composure. Playing such iconic characters as the concierge of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) and Voldemort himself, Fiennes draws from the best of both performances as a dedicated but slightly sadistic service worker. The chef has invited 11 wealthy guests to his private island where everything is made freshserving only the finest cuisine. His menu is a surprise, and anyone who’s seen the trailer can suspect some of what’s to come. 

We’re first introduced to the young couple of Margot and Tyler, played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, respectively. As they await the incoming ferry, Tyler expresses nothing but wholehearted worship for the chef’s craft. He’s waited for this day a long time. Margot is coming along for the ride, but certainly doesn’t belong there. It’s a good thing, because without a “commoner” at the center, the audience might be alienated by the snobs. 

As soon as the ferry arrives, the plot moves quickly. After all, there’s still a five-course meal to get through. The guests are casually introduced, the cooks are even more casually acknowledged, and everyone prepares for the first course.  The first 10 minutes are extremely entertaining — the brisk pace is paired with a breathtaking score by Colin Stetson, employing either soft or harsh pluckings of strings to propel everything forward. 

At the restaurant itself, director Mark Mylod pulls out every trick he has to excite the one location that will be used for most of the runtime. The camera work is lively and smart, rarely relying on the same angle repeatedly. Similarly, the editing is controlled but appears frantic as it shifts its perspective toward each of its inhabitants. Going in looking for something thrilling and comedic, I was surprised to find it also very well-crafted. 

The committed cast, sumptuous score and compelling camerawork could be noticed in the first 10 minutes, but the real meat is in the script. The dialogue is always sharp and the character interactions are riveting. Every time the story goes darker, the jokes get funnier. There’s always an irony between the events on display and the highbrow arrogance or an irony between the absurdity and the operatic score. That playfulness is matched by cooking-show-style pazazz. For those with a dark sense of humor, “The Menu” is laugh-out-loud funny. 

That humor has a purpose here, but digging into the satire isn’t necessary to have a good time. Of course, the ultra-rich are an easy target, but the film finds its nuance in the humanity and relatability of its cast. The cooking world is a perfect chamber for examining the server and serving: the artist and the critic. That intrinsic thematic tension pairs nicely with an already tense scenario.

“The Menu” is having a decent start at the box office, an impressive feat for an original film since the pandemic. The positive word of mouth should help it, because there’s so much to love here for a wide array of audiences. This might be what “kitchen nightmares” are really made of: Voldemort yelling at you to finish your plate, no matter how upsetting. If looking for something thrilling or dark this week, pick “The Menu.”

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