‘The Menu’ Dishes Out Suspense, Surprise, and Satire


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The movie poster for The Menu

Every time I go to the dentist, some random Food Network show is playing on the TV above me that I’m continually staring at for an hour. Naturally, it makes me hungry, so when I’m told I can’t eat anything for the next two hours of my fluoride treatment, I’m pretty annoyed. I propose that dentists play “The Menu” instead: a movie about a restaurant that won’t leave you hungry.

Mark Mylod’s “The Menu,” equal parts dark comedy and horror, stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes (also known as Voldemort). The film is atmospherically set on a fictional island that houses Hawthorne, an elite chef’s restaurant. Here, the highest of society members dine for an exorbitant $1,200 meal—you can get one whole Taylor Swift ticket for that price! On this particular night, Fiennes’ Chef Julian Slowik prepares an extra special and expertly curated—you guessed it—menu. This is no ordinary menu; the more the film goes on, the crazier, more chaotic, and more fatal each course becomes.

Another way to think of the setting is an extra hellish episode of Hell’s Kitchen, where Ralph Fiennes plays an incredibly unhinged Gordon Ramsay. The remote setting as well as the chefs’ synchronization and meticulousness gives the restaurant a very cultish vibe early on, and by the end of the film, the plot devolves to a point where a cheeseburger quite literally saves lives.

I think this movie is one you should go into fairly blind, so I won’t reveal much more about the plot, but the cast of characters dining at the restaurant deserve an introduction. There’s a table of finance bros, a food critic and her partner, a struggling movie star and his assistant, an old couple who are Hawthorne regulars, and lastly Tyler, a self proclaimed foodie, and his date Margot, the film’s heroine.

As the courses progress, the guests are called out by the restaurant for their past wrongdoings and secrets. Within these dark twists, “The Menu” comments—quite satirically, I may add—on prevalent issues like class, consumerism, oppression, and sexism. The motive for many of the characters’ past decisions are greed, elitism, or power.

Another element that I loved about this movie is its portrayal of female rage. In an interview with BBC 1, Taylor-Joy, who plays Margot, said, “I have a thing about feminine rage. I get a lot of, like, men doing really terrible things, and women sitting silently whilst one tear silently falls. And I’m like oh no no no, we get mad. And angry.” She continued, “And I told the director, the only way for me to play this truthfully is for me to attack someone.”

The film is also fantastic on the technical side, with Colin Stetson’s suspenseful score and Peter Deming’s cinematography. “The Menu” quickly became a feast for the eyes and ears. The movie accomplishes these aspects in an entertaining and psychologically thrilling way, and has an amazing cast with a brave female heroine.

If you find yourself looking for some entertainment on a snowy night in, look no further. And after watching, you’ll probably be happy just staying home and ordering takeout.

“The Menu” is now streaming on HBO Max.