By David Baldwin
Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) is a world-renowned chef who runs the ultra-exclusive Hawthorne restaurant that is located on its own island with a tasting menu that runs $1,250 per person. Among the guests is Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a huge foodie, who has invited Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) last minute to join him for the evening.
Spoiling what comes next would ruin the outrageous fun and bleak, biting Satire that courses through the veins of THE MENU. It takes jabs at the low-hanging fruit of the 1% and sets its sights on a number of other targets we know all too well. Of course, this is before things start going completely off the rails into directions and material you will never expect. Some may find many of the stops the Film makes to be shocking or in bad taste, but it is clear that Emmy-winning Director Mark Mylod intended on making a provocative piece of cinematic decadence – as well as a Film that will leave you incredibly hungry.
At the centre of it all is Taylor-Joy, who walks the tight rope of tonal absurdity with razor-sharp precision. She is our gateway into the madness of THE MENU, and she relishes in alternating between having the time of her life and being frightened for her life. And who knew she could be so witty? Just solid work all-around for one of our greatest talents. Equally solid is Hong Chau (also at the Festival with The Whale), who plays Slowik’s assistant Elsa. She gets many of the Film’s best lines and moments, each one delivered more deliciously wicked than the last. Hoult plays obnoxious weasel well and a whole slew of recognizable Character Actors do their very best keeping up the Film’s momentum.
These great elements would be completely meaningless though if it was not for Fiennes. He brings a next-level energy to his certifiably deranged performance, reveling in being astute and well spoken in one breath and batshit crazy in the next. There is an additive quality to his work here, packing-in as much poignancy as he does poisonous barbs. I would even go so far as to call this his best performance ever; one that is substantially more terrifyingly unhinged than even his legendary work as Lord Voldermort.
THE MENU screens as follows at TIFF ’22:
Sat, Sep 10 IN-PERSON Royal Alexandra Theatre 8:30pm
Mon, Sep 12 IN-PERSON Scotiabank Theatre 9:00pm
Thu, Sep 15 IN-PERSON Scotiabank Theatre 3:00pm
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