If you haven’t seen the trailers for “The Menu,” don’t watch them. But you should see the movie, which follows a group of filthy rich diners who attend an exclusive meal on a private island overseen by the legendary Chef Slowik, who slowly reveals over the course of a very long evening that he has … plans for his customers. And that’s all you need know. Well, that and Ralph Fiennes plays Slowik, and it’s the kind of performance that reminds you why he’s played dashing leading men, terrifying villains, action heroes, tragic everymen, and goofball comedy over the course of his 30-plus year career.
To say Slowik is complicated would be an understatement. But that doesn’t mean this is a delicate, subtle performance. Not at all. The beauty of what Fiennes does with this character is that he embodies a man defined by bombast, an artist with a chip on his shoulder who’s not afraid to grandstand like a big ham. But it’s the character who is hammy, not Fiennes, and it’s delicate, deranged balancing act. As “The Menu” gets deeper into its increasingly twisted and unsettling story (no spoilers here), we both understand this man more and less in equal measure. He’s unpredictable, absurd, terrifying, and clearly, someone who rightfully controls any room he enters.
Because that’s what Fiennes does. He owns the screen and plays characters who command the attention of all those in his vicinity, for reasons both powerful and discomforting.