The Menu can be best described as a dark comedy about celebrity chef culture. However, the themes of the film are much more interesting. The film uses its insane story to discuss celebrity culture, criticism, relationships, and a skewering take on high-end food culture. At the heart of the story is the making sure you do things you enjoy.
The story follows Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) on their way to a private island to dine at Hawthorne, an exclusive restaurant owned by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Known for his lavish meals, the menu consists of multiple courses that straddle the line between food and abstract art – Slowik even gives a little speech and explanation of the course before it’s served.
The guest joining Margot and Tyler includes John Leguizamo as an aging actor and his assistant (Aimee Carrero), an older couple, a food critic (Janet McTeer) and her editor (Paul Adelstein), and group of “bros” (Arturo Castro, Mark St. Cyr, Rob Yang). These characters are amplified versions of unlikeable people we see day-to-day.
The immersive dining experience Chef Slowik provides quickly goes from festive to fearful as things take an unexpected turn.
Anya Taylor-Joy gives a delightful performance as Margot. She’s gives Margot a vulnerability that’s necessary for predicament she finds herself while also establishing her as a character that can get out of this nightmarish situation. Taylor-Joy never looks too confident or too afraid during some very intense scenes.
What makes the satirical themes work so well is Ralph Fiennes as Slowik. He’s fantastic in every scene with his dry delivery and poignant observations about his guest that alternate between being passionate and emotional to absurd and disturbing. Fiennes is one of the few actors that can make this performance work while also being incredibly charming. Chef Slowik is Voldermot turned if he was down a few notches and attended culinary school instead of Hogwarts.
Not to be overshadowed is Hong Chau who gives a hilarious/menacing performance as Elsa. She makes the tortilla scene 10x funnier than it had any business being.
The Menu is a fascinating look at celebrity culture and the things people will allow under the guise of exclusivity. Tyler and Margot’s discussions about their experience paints a clear picture of what it means to be blindly obsessed with something and how important it is to love what you’re experiencing. The dark humor and on-the-nose satire is enough to make The Menu one of the most entertaining dark comedies in years.