I love watching cooking shows, and films about cooking, with my favorite being Babette’s Feast; that is, until I watched The Menu. Holy apocalypse wrapped up in a s’mores concoction! The Menu welcomes you to a delicious feast, but beware as each guest enters at their own risk.
The Menu is a 2022 dark comedy/horror film written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and directed by Mark Mylod. The meal begins with a boat trip to an exclusive restaurant called Hawthorne. Only the rich and famous are invited to this private island with its celebrity chef, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Slowik and his staff have prepared a special multi course dinner for the clients. Slowik also hints at a special dessert. The entire arrangement is presented in a military fashion: clapping of hands, snapping of boots, and the staff religiously attending to Slowik’s every need.
The guests, some who have attending these exclusive meals in the past, consist of Lillian (Janet McTeer) and Ted (Paul Adelstein) who are condescending food critics. There is also the husband and wife, Richard (Reed Birney) and Ann (Judith Light), who bring new meaning to the word entitled. We also have a movie star, George (John Leguizamo), who is past his prime. George’s assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero) is definitely looking for greener pastures.
We are also introduced to three business partners, Soren (Arturo Castro), Dave (Mark St. Cyr), and Bryce (Rob Yang). These tech dudes work for the man who financed the Hawthorne. Last in the lineup is Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy). Tyler sees himself as a food connoisseur…but will soon learn that he doesn’t know squat about cooking.
Slowik’s assistant Elsa (Hong Chau) makes sure that the guests follow the chef’s instructions to the letter. She is soft spoken, but dangerous to cross. As the first course is being prepared, Slowik explains what the appetizer is and how it will be prepared. Everything seems perfect, but Margot is not only uncomfortable with her date, but also with the type of food being served. Little does she know what is in store for her and the other guests.
Ralph Fiennes is the perfect actor to play Chef Slowik. Slowik is a man who spent his life creating food as art, but the joyful act of preparing food is now lost and this anger is visible as he speaks to the guests. His sharp dagger quips are delightfully hidden within his description of each plate that will be served. Fiennes’ character demands respect, not only for the dishes being presented, but for the detail put into creating each dish that is truly a work of art. We slowly begin to realize the power he has over his staff when he calls one of the minor chefs to the dining room. This scene was unexpected and quite shocking.
When Slowik prepares a course using tacos, each guest sees their personal crimes written on their taco. The guests are expectantly disgruntled, but each time they try to rebel, they are met with punishments that grow steadily more frightening.
The one person in the group of that Slowik is more lenient with is Margot. She does not belong there. Slowik’s quests were chosen specifically for this night. Slowik offers Margot a deal: Are you a taker, or a giver? He gives her fifteen minutes to decide.
Conclusion and Spoilers
I loved the interaction between Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, and Fiennes’ Slowik the most. Margot was not afraid of Slowik, nor was she impressed with the culinary delights that were offered. She had learned Slowik’s secret and that is what saves her life. You will need to watch the film to find out what happens to Margot.
It’s rather funny that within the last week, I have watched two films and one series (Glass Onion and The White Lotus) where the rich get their just desserts. You won’t be disappointed with this film. In a world where the rich are becoming increasingly hazardous to our lives and it is a lot of fun watching them become the main course.
The Menu is On Demand and HBO Max.