‘The Menu’ Serves a Plateful of Commentary on ‘Fine’ Art

If you are looking for a slow-burn thriller filled with punches at pretentious foodies and plot twists, go and watch “The Menu.” This film follows Margot (Anya-Taylor Joy) going to an expensive fancy dinner with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) at an island restaurant with other affluent diners. Their host, Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), tries to serve the best food to the best people, no matter the cost. All these customers did not expect to pay over a thousand dollars per plate for death.

In the beginning, the audience is introduced to a large cast of characters, all of which are wealthy individuals. Margot does not come from a wealthy background like the rest of her counterparts do. As Slowik serves the dishes everyone seems to enjoy them, except for Margot. This event causes much of the tension in the film.

Anything ranging from food to art that has the word “fine” in front of it is usually expensive. Many people such as Slowik dedicate their lives to trying to perfect this fine art. Over time, people like Slowik lose the joy they had while crafting that art. Margot points this out and says that the lack of love in Slowik’s food is why it is bad.

Courtesy of Alienworx Productions.

One of the best things to come from this movie was the cast’s performances. Fiennes’s performance as this deranged chef is also spectacular because of his eerily calm demeanor throughout the film. Since dark comedy was an element of the movie, Fiennes’s delivery of his character’s insults toward others or when addressing the diners’ horrible fate can be considered great comedic timing.

The most notable performance came from Joy, who was able to communicate the anger and confusion of someone thrown into a wild situation such as this. For instance, there is a scene toward the end when Margot asks Slowik to make her a burger, a food, unlike the classy dishes the latter served everyone else. Joy’s calm yet determined demeanor throughout this bold movie shows Joy’s strong acting chops.

All the diners, aside from Margot, represent people that have such high standards of food that they do not mind putting stress and insecurities onto people like Slowik. Hoult’s performance as Tyler, the pretentious foodie obsessed with Slowik, was great since he acted out his obnoxiousness and sadness. A pair of interesting characters include restaurant reviewers Lillian (Janet McTeer) and Ted (Paul Adelstein), who have the same pretentious taste as Tyler. The pair also appear to have a sense of entitlement that they deserve to live more than the other diners because Lillian “made” Slowik’s career by reviewing his food. McTeer and Adelstein did a great job of playing off each other and acting snooty in a hilarious yet real way.

The performances of the actors playing the other diners were superb as well. The Movie Star (John Leguizamo) served as a reminder of celebrities that name-drop other famous people just for notoriety. Leguizamo also brought some levity to the horrifying events.

Anne (Judith Light) and Richard (Reed Birney) are married frequenters of Slowik’s food; while Light and Birney were good at showing the fear of these characters, the characters themselves lacked any intrigue aside from Richard keeping a dark secret. Another set of characters that were not that intriguing was Bryce (Rob Yang), Soren (Arturo Castro) and Dave (Mark St. Cyr), who served as the typical rich guys working in finance who blow their money on things like fancy food.

Courtesy of Alienworx Productions.

Slowik knows that different rich types like Lillian, the Movie Star, the finance workers and the married couple put stress on artists like himself to be “perfect.” Due to this pressure, Slowik forms a resentment toward these extravagant diners, which ultimately seals all the character’s fates. All the actors playing the restaurant customers excelled when acting as different representations of the rich stereotype.

Aside from the performances, director Mark Mylod managed to capture a story on wealth and criticism influencing art. The aesthetic of the film helped display the affluence of the customers and who Slowik thinks will appreciate his food. Black, silver and gold, representations of high-end color palettes, are used around the set while the characters are seen wearing dark or muted colors of clothing. Bright and vibrant colors are often called tacky since “mediocre” restaurants like Mcdonald’s use bright colors, as well as retail stores selling vibrant clothing.

Even without the commentary on wealth, this movie is an enjoyable watch for those interested in a good old thriller that may also be considered horror. The story and plot twists are done so well that the movie will have you gasping in your seat. 

“The Menu” is now streaming on HBO Max.

By Presley DePugh

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