The preview screening of The Menu brought to a close the 10-day FilmBath Festival. The festival screened 40 films across the city, including ODEON, The Little Theatre, Chapel Arts Centre, and Roper Theatre, with over 50% of movies directed by women as part of the F-rating initiative which has been pioneered by FilmBath since 2014. As well as championing female talent, the festival also showcased films from around the world from countries such as Djibouti, Angola, and Bhutan. Aiming to make a trip to cinema as accessible as possible, tickets were sold on a pay-what-you-can price scale starting from £2, including for previews of Empire of Light, The Silent Twins, and The Menu. We were fortunate enough to have access to the screening of The Menu, which has been reviewed by Adam Ellis:
From the get-go, Mark Mylod’s new black comedy ‘the Menu’ has all the ingredients of an exciting cinematic experience. The intimate cast allows the audience to be engulfed by the Michelin star performances of Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) and Margot (Anya Taylor-joy), who are supported by a talented cast. The age-old set up of strangers being brought together in an isolated location promises twists, shocks and a theatrical ending– just no bread! While this film’s cinematography and acting talent certainly provides a feast for the eyes, it may not hit that cinematic sweet spot.
From the start(er), this film appears to be as carefully constructed as one of the dishes served up within it. The film follows die hard foodie, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and his date for the evening, Margot, as they take a long-awaited trip to Chef Slowik’s prestigious restaurant, Hawthorne. However, Margot appears to be the main voice of reason as the courses become increasingly ludicrous. Her presence soon unnerves the cult of serving staff and chefs whose scrupulous plan for the evening did not account for her last-minute attendance.
The three acts of the film are split into the many different courses served. Much like the dishes themselves, the scenes become increasingly convoluted and malicious as the film progresses. The first act aims to parody the opulence and extreme stupidity of gourmet food restaurants as well as the pompous guests who dine at them. The use of Nicholas Hoult’s character as a vessel to expose the generation obsessed with the act of sharing aesthetic food dishes on social media, known as ‘food porn’, is particularly well done. Even though the core themes have completely shifted by the end of the film, this comedic but very real view of modern fine dining is not lost. The high-end dining experience presented in the film feels informed and not so far fetched from reality, especially when considering real shows like MasterChef and Chef’s Table.
As the courses progress and the real meaning of the film becomes unwrapped, the sharp edge of the first act begins to blunt. Much like an amuse-bouche, the first act wets our pallet for a rich filling of intrinsically linked plot points and crescendos, but the last act fails to serve these up. It instead offers a bland and surprisingly straight forward explanation for everything.
Although viewers may not be able to have their cake and eat it with this film, it was an enjoyable watch, enriched by an involved audience at the film festival, which generates some great food for thought.