A group of wealthy diners head to an exclusive restaurant on a remote island and soon find themselves in the same boat as the viewers: misled by critics.
It won’t spoil anyone’s appetite to say there is blood on the menu, not least because this is the latest in a recent slew of “eat the rich” movies, ranging from the crackling Ready or Not to the overcooked Triangle of Sadness. This sits somewhere in the middle, failing to carve out its own identity and leaving you severely undernourished. For starters, it is directed without menace by Succession‘s Mark Mylod, never stirring the senses or serving the style promised by its “molecular gastronomy” setting. Nor does it slice aggressively enough to succeed as social commentary, too afraid to rock the boat to burn anything but the ridiculous food.
Produced by Adam McKay, this lumbers The Menu with the same confusion that hamstrung Don’t Look Up. It wants to skewer the wealthy elite but seems madder at the people serving them their minimalist delicacies, brainwashed sycophants enamoured to a fraud. If anything you would have thought McKay could relate. Ralph Fiennes plays the chef in question, an over-egged performance that reduces his fear factor to pudding, while the denouement suggests he possesses soup for brains. And someone needs to start putting Anya Taylor-Joy in better films, her striking presence underserved by the likes of this, Last Night in Soho and Split.
The other diners (including Nicholas Hoult and Transparent‘s Judith Light) do their best with minimal ingredients, but the story runs out of steam before the entrées arrive. The plot lacks Ready or Not‘s crucial link with reality (half the diners carry on eating when people start dying) and there is more intensity in an average episode of kitchen-based drama The Bear. Flavourless and pointless, The Menu wants to have its cake and it eat it too. It positions itself as anti-pretentious but is extremely pretentious, thinking itself clever even as it crumbles into a Burger King advert before our very eyes. If the joke is that film critics are victim to the same Emperor’s New Clothes folly as these fawning foodies, then the joke is well and truly on us.