“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food” – Paul Prudhomme
In The Menu, from director Mark Mylod, you actually need to be able to afford a gold fork in order to dine at Hawthorne. The cost of the prix fixe meal at this exclusive establishment, located on a private island is $1,250 per person.
The patrons come to Hawthorne to dine on the creations of “The Chef” (Ralph Fiennes – Spectre, The Grand Budapest Hotel). He encourages the people seated for the meal to “taste” rather than just eating the food. “Margot Mills” (Anya Taylor-Joy – The Queens Gambit) is there on this evening with “Tyler” (Nicholas Hoult – Warm Bodies, X-Men: Dark Phoenix) who is a serious foodie and fanboy of The Chef. As we learn early on, she was not his planned date for this evening but a last-minute replacement.
There are others at Hawthorne on this special evening. Noted food critic “Lillian Bloom” (Janet McTeer – Me Before You, Tumbleweeds) was personally invited by The Chef. She had been instrumental in his career when he started out as a chef. Other guests in the dining room are an actor whose best career roles are behind him now (John Leguizamo) and his beautiful and intelligent assistant (Aimee Carrero); three men who work for the investor behind the creation of Hawthorne, and a wealthy man and his wife. The wife thinks that Margo looks familiar.
The guests are led on a tour of the island upon arrival. Their tour-guide and restaurant captain “Elsa” (Hong Chau – Downsizing, American Woman) shepherds the diners to their tables and manages their movements.
Each course is a revelation to the patrons and not in a good way as The Chef’s true menu is revealed; in a clever way using a portion of one course of the meal. To avoid spoilers, I will write no more about what happens next. Suffice it to say, there are more twists and turns as the meal moves on.
Anya Taylor-Joy continues to dazzle in her performances and the camera loves her madly. What I enjoy in watching Ralph Fiennes act is that there is an element of similarity in most of his performances and yet they are all decidedly different at the same time. John Leguizamo delivers an over-the-top performance, but that is precisely what is needed from his ‘has-been’ character. Conversely, the talents of Judith Light are utterly wasted in her all too brief time as the focus of attention.
Because of the dark nature of the subject matter, when and where to use darker lighting is important. This is something Mylod does well. Food movies require the display of food items that are exquisite in appearance, and that look incredibly delicious. The presentation of the courses is spectacular, but they are so esoteric in nature that I had no desire to ingest any of them. Except perhaps for one item that The Chef lovingly prepares near the end of the film.