The Menu (2022) is a dark comedy thriller film about a group of wealthy people who paid for an experience to taste celebrity chef Julian Slowik’s menu. The film is directed by Mark Mylod and produced by Adam McKay, Betsy Koch and Will Ferrell. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Hong Chau.
Read the summary and review below.
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The Menu (2022) - Movie Summary
Margot Mills (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her date Tyler Ledford (Nicholas Hault) took a boat to a private island to take part in a tasting experience by celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Tyler is a big foodie and revered Chef Slowik to a certain degree, which Margot could not seem to comprehend. In their trip, there were other groups of people including food critic Lilian Bloom and her editor, three associates of Doug Verrick (Chef Slowik’s angel investor), a movie star George Diaz and his associate, a weathy older couple Richard and Anne Leibrand, and Chef Slowik’s mother.
When the group arrived at the island, one of Chef Slowik’s kitchen assitant, Elsa (Hong Chau) noted that Margot was not supposed to attend the experience. The booking was under someone else’s name, but Elsa seemed to begrudgingly allow Margot to enter once Tyler said that Margot will be taking over the other person’s place.
At the restaurant named Hawthorne, Chef Slowik was quick to get everyone’s attention in the room. His cooks stopped and marched at the clap at his hand and the other guest felt obliged to stop whatever they were doing. Tyler was constantly in awe of Chef Slowik’s work, even though each dishes’ monologue gets increasingly dark and sinister.
Before the fourth course is served, sous-chef Jeremy killed himself with a gun, sending a shock to the entire room, except for Tyler. Noticing something was wrong, Richard Leibrand tried to leave, but was instead stopped by the restaurant assistants. They cut off his ring finger as ordered by Chef Slowik.
The fifth course also started ugly with the chef allowing sous-chef Katherine to stab him with a scissors as he had tried to sexually harass her before this. The women were then allowed to dine with Katherine while the men had to take part in a cat-and-mouse chase. Knowing that they were all going to die that night, the guest pretended to like the course served.
As Margot was not supposed to be there. she was given the chance to stick with the staff or the other guests. Margot could not pick, and so the chef decided that she should join the staff’s side. It was also revealed that Margot was an escort who had served Mr Leibrand before.
Tyler’s girlfriend broke up with him before this, and the chef did not allow a seating for one. Therefore, Tyler hired Margot to go on the experience with him, even though the chef had informed him months before that all guest will die. The chef got Tyler to cook in front of all the guest, despite Tyler’s limited cooking skills, and ordered Tyler to hang himself.
Then, the chef ordered Margot to go get a barrel in the smokehouse as she is now part of the staff team. Instead, Margot went to the chef’s house and noticed a photo of Chef Slowik in his younger days. The chef was working in a greasy cheeseburger joint but was looking extremely happy. In the process, Elsa came to stop Margot as Elsa thought that she was being replaced. During the fight, Margot stabbed Elsa in the neck, killing her.
In the chef’s house, Margot also found a radio, and asked for help. However, the police officer involved turns out to be a line chef in disguise.
Margot then finally stood up to the chef and asked to return the food. She claimed to be still hungry and asked for a cheeseburger and fries. Finally seeing a customer telling him what they want, Chef Slowik obliged and served her a plate. Margot loved the burger, but then asked to take the burger to go as she could not finish it now. Again, the chef obliged and Margot was allowed to leave the island on a motorboat.
Before dessert, the chef revealed that everyone in the room had contributed to him losing his passion for his craft. There were people like Tyler who dissected every methodology instead of appreciating the artwork, and there were angel investors and food critics who put a crazy amount of pressure on him. As dessert, the chef got the guest to dressed up as marshmallows with a big block of chocolate on their head. He then burned the whole building down, creating s’mores.
The Menu - Movie Review
Story, plot and characters
The Menu was promoted as both a dark comedy and as a horror film. Having watched the trailer beforehand, I went into the movie fully expecting a lot more blood and gore. However, I was pleasantly surprised. With its overall satirical concept and occasionally nonsensical dialogue, The Menu excels more in its dark comedy aspect, but not necessarily in the horror department. Chef Slowik tears apart society’s method of dissecting and analyzing each piece of art instead of savoring them, and as an audience, I felt the weight of that.
However, with the film’s heavy focus on dark comedy, this might also lead to some over-the-top and irrational areas which could be picked apart. For example, most of the guests did not seem to fully fight for their lives when they found out that they were dying. Nor did the movie explain why they were so quick to obey the chef’s every instruction. If one is expecting character development in this film, they would be disappointed as there is close to none. The Menu relies mostly on the anticipation of the final reveal to get the audience to stick to the screen.
Cast, design and cinematography
There were departments that were definitely deserving of some praise. In particular, the acting of several key characters were fantastic. Nicholas Hault shines through as the obsessed foodie that continuously puzzles our main character Margot, while Hong Chau delivered the role of Elsa brilliantly and serves as the point of cynicism and tension from the beginning of the film.
The design of the set is also astounding. For instance, the whole island gave a grimly feel, while the restaurant pushed itself to maintain a luxurious setting, despite displaying a dark and dingy atmosphere. Cinematography was also excellent in the way it highlights each course of the menu. Food photography is indeed a different playing field, but The Menu captured the art of each course with great detail without forgetting the macroscopic view. One particularly beautiful shot was the top-view of the s’mores where the floor of the restaurant acts as a plate and the guest were the marshmallows.