The Menu (MA, 107 minutes)
The American television series Succession, possibly based on Rupert Murdoch's passel of children squabbling over his empire when he's not actually dead yet, though the producers go out of their way to pretend it isn't, has built a huge following.
The team behind it are canny and creative, and this new horror film comes out of that creative pool.
It's billed as a horror and in many ways the horror is this crazed fandom and the Stockholm Syndrome they might be subject to.
Succession writers Seth Reiss and Will Tracy have written a screenplay that skewers the modern phenomenon of the celebrity chef and syntax-aware foodie fandom who use phrases like "mouth feel" and "umami".
It's billed as a horror and in many ways the horror is crazed fandom and the Stockholm Syndrome they might be subject to. But it's also a genuine horror, in the Jordon Peele's Get Out school of horror. Fun clever horror. There's a handful of other films I might compare it to, but that would be giving away some of its twists.
The Hawthorne is a restaurant that has built its own mystique based in part on its inaccessibility, being hard to get into, located on a remote island, and costing over a grand per person for dinner.
Its menu is prix fixe, which means the chef decides what you eat rather than you choosing from a menu, and the chef in question is Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), a chef and restauranteur who has built a cult around his food ethos.
Set across a single dinner at The Hawthorne, we meet an oddball assortment of Chef Slowik's cashed-up groupies out for a culinary experience, including the food critic Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer); John Leguizamo as a has-been movie star; Mark St Cyr, Rob Yang and Arturo Castro as a trio of high-fiving millennial Wall Street bros; and the wonderful Judith Light as one half of a wealthy couple whose marriage needs some time in the microwave.
Uber-foodie Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) has brought along a date for the night in Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), but Margot couldn't give a flying filet about Cherf Slowik and his approach to food or to being told to taste and savour.
As the courses are revealed to the guests, Chef serves more than his episodic degustation. Director Mark Mylod has shown a talent for skewering the wealthy and the pretentious on Succession, and this is a more obvious flambeing and with tongue planted much more firmly in the cheek.
Mylod plays with some of the visual inventiveness foodie television has devised to build this cult of personality around cooking, copying many signature visual flourishes you will recognise if you devour cooking shows, and this will either be wryly funny to you, or you'll just appreciate the signposting.
His cinematographer Peter Deming collaborates on this lush ritualising of the culinary art, and it all just becomes a kind of snake that eats its own tail.
Even I'm getting sick of all these food references, but I will take it one step further and talk about the delicious performances.
Ralp Fiennes doesn't do enough comedy, and he is dry as salted beef here, high on his own importance, like every good artist.
Most of the fun belongs to Queen's Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy. She gets to be the cynical straight-man to these silly shenanigans.
Writers Reiss and Tracy came up through the American comedy faux-newspaper The Onion, always a fun read though in recent years some of its jokes headlines seeming more sane and believable than mainstream news.
It's not just the chefs and their food cults they serve up - it's also every awful customer you ever served and wish would just leave.
The film is produced by funnyman Will Ferrell, who knows his comedy.
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