The Menu is a 2022 American dark comedy horror film directed by Mark Mylod. It features an ensemble cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Hong Chau, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Judith Light, and John Leguizamo. The film focuses on a group of diners at an exclusive restaurant who discover the celebrity chef owner intends to kill them all before the night is over.
S P O I L E R S
The Menu is a satire of folks who take food a little too seriously. There is a moment in the film when celebrity chef Julian Slowick (Fiennes) demands that his customers not (just) eat the food but to savour it. From one perspective, the film pokes fun at the po-faced critics and well-heeled foodies who elevate food into art and these chefs into superstar artists.
Analysing the film, it is clear that the main character – the one whom the film wants the audience to identify with and to root for, is not Chef Slowick (obviously) but instead Margot Mills (Taylor-Joy), the escort who just happened to be hired by Tyler Leford (Hoult) to be his ‘plus-one’ for the exclusive dinner event. Thus, throughout the opening half of the film, Margot is unimpressed by the food and by Slowick himself, pointing out (correctly) that something was very wrong with proceedings.
Initially, the food and the extremes that Slowick goes to present said food is simply ludicrous and this is where the strong element of satire is evident. However, once there is a violent turn in events then, The Menu transforms into a horror film and our protagonist Margot needs to find a way out of this potentially murderous predicament.
How Margot finally discovers a means of escape might be difficult to accept but when one realises that Margot had inadvertently attended the event and she was never meant to caught up in Slowick’s diabolical plan, it makes a little more sense. That said, the film’s messaging concerning class systems and the one percenters is heavy-handed and ultimately hypocritical, when one considers that The Menu has an arty-farty agenda just as pretentious as the subject matter it satirises.
In the final analysis, The Menu is a thematic exercise in hubris and excess that, depending on your tolerance level for artistic indulgence is either hit or miss. However, the film is definitely worth the watch for yet another riveting performance from Anya Taylor-Joy. But you knew we were going to say that, right?
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