After finding some much-needed decompressing and recharging of the batteries, I found the time to watch another film that sparked my interest from the onset. Last Sunday, I watched the horror-comedy film "The Menu." Upon watching the trailer a few months ago, reading the names of the cast immediately created intrigue. Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Taylor Joy, John Leguizamo and Hong Chau provided the significant interest and belief in knowing that not only would the film be of immense quality, but also being able to experience the story in a theatrical setting made it a must-see for me personally.
End-of-the-year films usually tend to experience a decline in quality since the summer is when the monumental and highly anticipated cinematic outings are released, but 2022 has provided consistent and meticulous releases without any disappointments. "The Menu" is such a film - another refreshing, unique, entertaining, intense and morbidly humorous tale that I reckon is a satirical take on the world of eccentric chefs.
The story reveals the tale of out-of-touch food critics who are invited to an isolated island by one of the world's greatest chefs to feast on the food he creates. He views his craft as a divine experience rather than just another meal.
Each dish he prepares is a story intertwined with the characters in the film, who gradually come to the realization that there's more to the chef, his line cooks and the island than meets the eye as he slowly begins to lift the veil of his true nature. Watching the story unfold became a treat with the acting, writing of the dialogue and the overall atmosphere within the kitchen creating an exhilarating sensation.
First let me discuss the acting. If I remember reading correctly, the dialogue with the actors and actresses was largely improvised throughout production, clearly allowing the individuals to react in a manner that is completely appropriate, realistic, even amusing once the carnage is unleashed. In some films, there's usually one or two highlights making it a memorable experience, but in "The Menu," every single performance is a standout feature. Everyone is absolutely on their best foot going forward without it venturing into a realm of one outshining the other.
Typically films with ensemble casts experience setbacks with specific actors and actresses being cast aside in favor of a certain star having more popularity and success. "The Menu" was written in manner where every single individual involved is given their moment to shine. Second, cleverly written dialogue paving the way for improvisation during production is fantastic. I cannot specify how I appreciated each reaction appearing genuine and even comedic. Without going into any detail spoilers, the film will keep the viewer guessing from beginning to end. The best way to define the genre of this film is very problematic. There's comedy, drama, suspense, horror, a bit of romance and action all intertwined into a complete, entertaining story that's never boring.
Fiennes' portrayal of the eccentric, erratic celebrity chef known as Julian Slowik displays a performance equally terrifying, callous and humorous. Anyone reading this review will see the word "humorous" appearing in repetitive fashion for good reason. "The Menu" is quite funny with its execution building up to a specific scene that I will not reveal. However, complete and full disclosure, you'll know the scene when you watch it. Admittedly when it happened, saying it became an exercise to keep from laughing hysterically would be an understatement.
I won't provide any more details other than to say the way it was written was genius, and how it was executed was brilliant. Fiennes' performance could, would or should be described as, "What if celebrity chefs Emeril or Gordon Ramsay were sociopaths?"
I wouldn't know how else to describe it other than picturing those two having command over their line cooks using fear, manipulation and brutality to get their point across. As over the top as Ramsay is in his shows, what's more intimidating is simmering rage rather than chewing scenery where it becomes more comedic than frightening.
Nicholas Hoult is another favorite actor of mine who deserves praise and adulation for anything he's involved in. He was and is fantastic in the recent X-Men films, "Warm Bodies" and "Mad Max: Fury Road," and "The Menu" is no different.
Once again, all of the actors and actresses are at the top of their game. Even as I'm writing this review, I find it a bit unfair to highlight one specific performance since the entire cast is masterpiece quality.
"The Menu" is another perfect 2022 cinematic outing. I highly, highly recommend watching this film with a group of friends and family (due to language, violence and adult innuendos, the content isn't appropriate for children). I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this.
As much as I want to watch "She Said," I absolutely do not regret watching "The Menu" instead. It was and is worth the experience. This is also another reason why movie theaters are massively important. I don't believe this film can or will be appreciated in a smaller venue.
In closing, I'll say make this a must-watch before it leaves cinemas.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.
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