“The Menu” is categorized as a comedy, thriller and horror. I’m not sure “Horror” is the correct way to describe it, but the other two genres are spot on. What’s done well is how quickly you get to know the two main characters, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). You’re then left to figure out how the rest of the cast fits into their story.
Tyler fancies himself a bit of a “cook” and is dying to see his hero, Chef Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes), desperately wanting to gain his approval.
And before I forget (this will come into play in a big way) that initially, Tyler was to bring someone else to the restaurant. Margot was a last-minute substitute. Keep that in mind.
Tyler, Margot and a few others take a boat to a tiny island called Hawthorne. They go on this trek not only to eat but to be entertained and perhaps acknowledged by him. His is glorious food you can’t get anywhere else but his exclusive Hawthorne restaurant. Chef and his sous chefs prepare fresh food from their gardens and gather other nutrients, such as scallops, from the island itself. Chef asks that his guests not just eat their food but rather to taste it, relish and savor what is rolling around on their tongues. The menu is too precious not to fully experience what he has prepared, especially for them.
As I mentioned, others are there to dine on chef’s delights. One diner is Lillian, played by Janet McTeer. Lillian is a snobby food critic who doesn’t hold anything back. There’s also a well-known movie star played by John Leguizamo. He’s a bit cocky himself. When each is introduced, you begin to see the darkness play out. It seems as if Chef Slowik has quite the experience planned for them. In the beginning, the evilest thing chef does is allow them no bread. He tells them that bread is for the commoner. Since they are not common, they get no bread.
Then they are served “unaccompanied accompaniments.” It’s about this time that, though warned against it, Margot questions chefs serving style. This could go better. She makes it clear that she’s not impressed by any of the dishes he serves that he’s so proud of. Each course gets more and more creepy and reveals more and more about this idolized chef. Maybe he isn’t who he claims to be.
In a way, chef respects Margot and her tone that doesn’t bow to his. Tyler is becoming jealous of her. Since she wasn’t supposed to be in attendance, chef knows little of her, but he desires to cook for her and her alone. That excites him, something he hasn’t felt in a long time.
This story reveals that an underappreciated chef is tired of being treated “less than” by the arrogant hypocrites of society. The menu this evening has been precisely planned to show them they don’t always have control. That said, he doesn’t get the enjoyment of them knowing what he’s up to unless he tells them. Chef looks at new creations as art. After making the perfect cheeseburger for the most impossible-to-please critic, he goes out on the highest score he has ever reached.
He knows he has, at last, seized the milestone he has continually aimed for… a masterpiece. You’d think this proficient and capable culinary artist with a flair for the dramatic would have accomplished this objective long ago but, things being as they are, perhaps his mommy issues should have been dealt with sooner.
Directed by: Mark Mylod
Written by: Seth Reiss (screenplay), Will Tracy (screenplay)
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Janet McTeer
Rated: R (for strong/disturbing violent content, language, some sexual references)
Run Time: 106 minutes
Genres: Comedy, Horror, Thriller