(director: Mark Mylod; screenwriters: Seth Reiss/Will Tracy; cinematographer: Peter Deming; editor: Christopher Tellefsen; music: Colin Stetson; cast: Anya Taylor-Joy (Margot), Nicholas Hoult (Tyler), Ralph Fiennes (Chef Slowik), Janet McTeer (Lillian Bloom), Paul Adelstein (Ted), Aimee Carrero (Felicity), John Leguizamo (Movie Star), Judith Light (Anne), Hong Chau (Elsa), Rob Yang (Bryce), Arturo Castro (Soren), Mark St. Cyr (Dave); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Adam McKay/Betsy Koch/Will Ferrell/Dan Tram Nguyen/Zahra Phillips; Searchlight Pictures; 2022)
“It’s black comedy at its most zesty.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Brit director Mark Mylod (“What’s Your Number?”/”The Big White”) is best known for his directing on British TV and for directing the Game of Thrones. Here he directs an epicurean satire, that tastes like a horror comedy. It’s written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. In 2019, Emma Stone was set to play the lead role with Alexander Payne directing. In 2021, Anya Taylor-Joy replaced Stone and Mark Mylod replaced Payne as the director.
Despite the compelling ensemble cast things don’t always taste quite right, as the meal is doctored to make the elites feel special for having so much money at their disposal.
The high-end foodie Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) gets a reservation (which must be set up months in advance and the tab of $1, 250 is to be paid at the time of the reservation, at the the unique paradise-like island farm-house restaurant of the celebrated, grim, bossy and pompous Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). It’s an exclusive restaurant, whose right-hand person keeping tabs on the large cooking staff at the eatery is the stoic Elsa (Hong Chau). There is seating only for a dozen patrons, on the remote Hawthorne Island restaurant (located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest), whose patrons are all billionaires, food critics and famous actors willing to pay through the nose for the chef’s fancy haute cuisine (constantly changing with new culinary ideas).
The film’s dark social commentary takes the filthy rich patrons and the self-inflated chef to task by mocking their expensive appetites as unhealthy, too pricey, too much of an ego conceit and a result of capitalism’s ability to create wide class differences.
Among the restaurant’s 12 guests are Tyler’s mystery woman date Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), the only person here without wealth or privilege, and is the only level-headed diner who the viewer can identify with that is not impressed with the ‘full of beans’ chef; an unnamed actor trying to resurrect his career (John Leguizamo) and his date Felicity (Aimee Carrero), his sad assistant; the confused restaurant critic, Lillian Bloom (Janet McTeer), and her gutless editor, Ted (Paul Adelstein); a wealthy couple, Anne and Richard (Judith Light and Reed Birney); a trio of unlikable into big tech brothers, Bryce (Rob Yang), Soren (Arturo Castro) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr), whose boss is the mystery man that is Hawthorn’s main investor.
The tension builds as each course is more outlandish than the other and when served the chef greets them by explaining to them his philosophical ideas behind his preparation for the course, as the chef also berates the patrons to taste the food rather than merely eat it (which encourages them to lose sight of why we eat).
It’s black comedy at its most zesty, that socks it to these foodie snobs, telling these wealthiest people in the world, the one percent who rule the world, that they’ve lost their way in the world and have become trapped into forgetting they are just people who must eat to live.
I wished it served its ridiculous meal faster instead of dragging its feet and making its mocking points after every one of its many courses, which became redundant and made me somewhat lose my appetite for the stylish pic that at first made me hungry for its wisdom but in the end could only tempt me but not fully satiate me.
It played at the Toronto Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 11/7/2022 GRADE: B