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The Menu Explores the Horror in Fine Dining

The Menu is a full meal of a film that is filled with humor, horror, and performances that make you hope the characters meet their demise.

Food is a universal form of connection for humans. There is something about breaking bread with other people that allows us to form long lasting bonds and share our experiences. That is, unless the restaurant doesn’t serve bread and is run by an elitist sociopath hellbent on a true last supper. The Menu is an incredible film that stirs in equal measures suspense, horror, and humor while making you root against nearly every character. It’s a beautifully shot, directed, and edited glimpse of elitism and everything I hate about fine dining in a wonderful satirical to-go bag. So I hope you’re hungry because I’ve got thoughts on this film.

(From L-R): Judith Light, Reed Birney, Paul Adelstein, Janet McTeer, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Aimee Carrero, Rob Yang, Arturo Castro, and Mark St. Cyr in the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

On an island, on accessible via a boat, lays Julian Coolly’s (Ralph Fiennes) dining experience for only the highest echelon of guests with the bank accounts to afford it. You’ve got a former washed up film star played by John Leguizamo whom he based on his experiences with well known asshole Steve Seagull, some tech type bros (the worst breed of bro), a food critic (Janet McTeer), an extremely rich couple, and more. The story mainly follows Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) who is brought on a “date” by foodie Instagram douche bag Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) who licks the boot of Coolly ever chance he gets. All of these people are in for a dining experience that’s to die for (I’m not sorry for that.)

If you’re familiar at all with my work, you’ll know that I start every interview by asking what someone’s favorite sandwich is. I do this because I truly believe as I said earlier that food is the ultimate form of connection that can take an awkward Q&A to an intimate conversation about life and art. The Menu is a dish of food elitism that often mirrors Chef’s Table which is brought up several times in the film itself. There are incredibly stylized cards for each meal that talks about what they are.

That is where the truest form of horror in the film hides for me in that these are the most pretentious high brow deconstructions of what someone could call food. These dishes lose the entire point of a meal in the over complicated sauce that is fine dining only reserved for the wealthiest of diners. I found myself in Margot’s shoes the entire time wanting to flip my table and scream at the dishes that were served that included gels (they gel). It’s an example of excess that the people with the pockets deep enough to have it yearn for. It’s to make yourself feel like you’re better than someone like me who would eat a hoagie over any form of a deconstructed food horror served in the film. It’s an incredible look into the nightmare that is the upper class lifestyle.

(From L-R): Mark St. Cyr, Arturo Castro, Hong Chau, and Rob Yang in the film THE MENU. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Now with those meals does come some of the funniest lines of dialogue I’ve heard in some time. The maitre d’ (Hong Chau) has one of my favorite moments in the film where the group of bros ask what a certain food is and she repeats the word tortillas multiple times slowly for them. There is the perfect balance in the film of tension and humor that actually drives that tension further. Most of the time, humor can break that tension but here it pulls the strong even thinner to move you to the edge of your seat.

Ralph Fiennes in THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

The cast themselves does an incredible job at playing the worst people on Earth. A group of self indulgent assholes who all art and expression is lost on. They consume only for the idea that they can. They do not appreciate the food or experience they are being given. Some going so far as to break the rules to get photos for Instagram. The phone eats first rule goes horribly wrong in this film. Everyone’s performances are incredible to the point where you’re rooting for their demise in some of the best horror kills I’ve seen outside of a slasher franchise. The finale of the film had me roasting in my seat but wanting to clap at the idea of it.

The incredible script with the talent the film injects this hearty meal with is just untouched by so many films. It is interesting that The Menu was filmed chronologically as noted in the film’s press conference by director Mark Mylod.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult in the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Despite The Menu being about little fluffy frou frou dishes, the amount of meat on its bones leaves you full by the time the credits roll. Incredible performances, sharp writing, and the satire of the elite is an incredible film that you need to see. Gratuity is included.

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