The Menu: bloody satire | LeMagduCine

After Without Filter, awarded a Palme d’Or at Cannes, social satire seems to be in fashion. With The menuMark Mylod, notably director of episodes of the series Succession, attacks the bourgeoisie and the culinary world. The result is a rather effective black comedy, not devoid of flaws, but which works all the same thanks to its subject and its cheerful cast.

Tasty criticism of the bourgeoisie

First, we could take The menu for a Whodunit, as it uses some of these codes. As with Agatha Christie, a large panel of explosive characters is presented to us. Here, each of these characters is invited to an isolated island to take part in a gourmet dinner organized by a great chef. Among them are Margot and Tyler, a young couple played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult. But quickly, over the course of the tastings, this social evening takes a very disturbing turn.

Like any good whodunit, it is these strange characters, each crazier than the next, that keep us spellbound. Between the snobbish food critic duo, the movie star, or the employees of a big box, all strata of high society are represented. Only Margot, the protagonist, looks different. She is the only one who does not adhere to the strange menus concocted by the chef, played by Ralph Fiennes. And at the same time, her boyfriend, fascinated by the kitchen, is in total admiration in front of the acts and gestures of the cook.

Thus, our point of view adapts to that of Margot. Like her, we witness the vain behavior of these characters. And The menu greatly relies on this social gap by using the tone of comedy. The first act, down to its trigger, is simply comical, poking fun at all of its characters in turn. We note in particular the character played by Judith Light, particularly annoying in food criticism.

It is only when the film assumes its horrific dimension that the social satire really takes place. What was only comic until then suddenly becomes much more disturbing. And the film’s staging device suitably transcribes this tone. Through his choice of framing as well as a very neat photograph, Mark Mylod perfectly conveys the uneasiness present in the room. All the artificiality of the place is translated by very meticulous, almost clinical plans, like the gastronomy environment it depicts. All the dishes served are presented as in TV shows, with slow motions as artificial as the products presented.

Unbalanced mix of flavors

Unfortunately, this mixture of horror and comedy struggles to fully convince. The narrative never really seems to find its balance in its tonality. Because of this, it never gets to be totally funny or totally scary. This permanent imbalance also cuts off the rhythm of the film. It only lasts 1h48, but lengths are felt several times. The setting up of the first act is very long until the triggering element of the story arrives. And the second is also extremely sluggish, stretching its stakes far too long.

It is only in its third act, more precisely its climax, that the film finds its flavor. Mark Mylod’s social criticism takes on its full meaning during its cathartic finale, in which Margot and the chef confront each other. This opposition between the two characters is underlying in the first two thirds of the story. A tension is immediately created between the two when the young woman dares to refuse a dish from the chef. And he sees it as an affront that he tries to understand by trying to unmask Margot’s true face.

Ralph Fiennes’ performance is noteworthy. He holds the film at arm’s length in its less successful moments. His composition is very nuanced, thanks to his funny yet scary facial expressions, and his imposing stature. It perfectly embodies the austerity of haute cuisine. And his writing is also interesting. Simple antagonist at first glance, the film gradually reveals much deeper motivations. And the culinary field allows the filmmaker to make an analogy between gastronomy and the actions of the chef.

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Throughout the dishes he offers, the chef literally cooks his guests. His goal is clearly to humiliate them slowly, by offering them his ridiculous concepts. But what the film, and therefore the leader, denounces is this inability of the bourgeois to question themselves. They never realize the implausibility of their way of life, and their fascination for hazy concepts. We particularly remember this recipe for bread slices without bread, which perfectly represents the futility of the life of these people.

The end of the film is all the more pleasant, because we witness the awakening of Margot, prisoner of this societal nightmare. The result is this famous final confrontation, where she dares to question this famous menu. The film finally finds the right balance in its tone. We regret then that the rest of the story is so conventional and irregular. Even if it lacks flavor at times, the mix of ingredients in this menu is good enough to satisfy the viewer’s appetite.

The menu : trailer

The menu : technical sheet

Original Title: The Menu

Directed by: Mark Mylod
Screenplay: Seth Reiss, Will Tracy
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy (Margot Mills), Nicholas Hoult (Tyler), Ralph Fiennes (Julian Slowik), Hong Chau (Elsa)
Photography: Peter Deming
Music: Colin Stetson
Editing: Christopher Tellefsen
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Horror
Production Company: Hyperobject Industries
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Release date: November 23, 2022 (France)
Country: United States

The Menu: bleeding satire

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The Menu: bloody satire | LeMagduCine