Mark Mylod's new film The Menu is a darkly comic satire/horror film targeting foodie culture and anchored by strong lead performances.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays Margot, a young woman accompanying her date (Nicholas Hoult) to an ultra-exclusive restaurant on an island. The other diners include a trio of rich tech bros, a one-percenter married couple, a fading movie star and his assistant, and a food critic and her editor. The restaurant is run by Chef Slawik (Ralph Fiennes), who delivers lectures before serving each course (one of them is a "breadless bread plate"). The staff works with military-like precision and appears eerily devoted to their boss.
As the evening progresses, it becomes apparent the chef has something much more sinister in mind. The film works in large part because Fiennes is terrific as the chef - imperious and vicious but also charismatic and funny. And like the best villains, you can at least understand the source of his anger even if you don't endorse mass murder. As the only likable diner, Taylor-Joy makes viewers care about whether or not she escapes the evening.
Even when the proceedings turn gory, The Menu never stops being funny. It's consistently entertaining, which helps the viewer overlook a few rough spots in the plotting (a few questions are best not lingered on for too long). But despite a few flaws, The Menu is an original film with a clever story hook aimed at adults.