The Menu

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Eat the rich.” The expression is a rallying cry against capitalism and class inequality. It’s commonly attributed to Jean Jacques Rousseau, a political philosopher and leading figure in the late 18th century during the French Revolution. However, the idiom has been invoked many times since. The words are never uttered here, but that ethos is all over this movie and is especially apropos, given the account is all about eating. Not literally “people,” as the phrase somewhat humorously implies, but gourmet fare. However, this narrative does not celebrate fine dining. Obsessive foodies, celebrity chefs, and tasting menus will be roasted to the death..and it isn’t pretty.

The Menu is a dark and nasty satire on the art of fine dining. Hawthorn is the name of an elegant restaurant in the Pacific Northwest run by Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). It’s likely a mash-up of many haute cuisine destinations. Director Mark Mylo — best known for his directorial work on TV shows Succession and Shameless — is working from a clever screenplay by Will Tracy and Seth Reichs (The Onion). A visit to Cornelius, a prestigious destination for seafood in Norway, inspired this production. Living in Nothern California, my mind went to The French Laundry, which charged $850 per person at the height of the COVID pandemic. There’s also a more direct geographic comparison of La Isla, the isolated private island in Patagonia of chef Francis Mallman visited by affluent gastro-tourists. There’s no cell coverage or Wi-Fi there either.

Guests travel by boat to a remote island to dine at an exclusive venue where the chef has prepared a lavish multi-course culinary journey with a sinister agenda. That’s the plot in a nutshell. This is a world where the top 1% spend hundreds (even thousands) of dollars on an epicurean experience. The “Breadless Bread Plate” merely features dollops of oil and emulsions on a plate. “The Island” course is a rock with a raw diver scallop carefully adorned with pickled seaweeds and algae using tweezers. These chefs have reduced their craft to an intellectual exercise by taking the joy out of eating. The final insult? The diner is still hungry after their meal of minimalism is all over.

Then there are the 12 chic and shallow elites who have each paid $1250 a head. The guest list includes Nicholas Hoult as Tyler, an obsequious foodie who has watched every episode of Chef’s Table. He worships Julian Slowik. His date is Margot, portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy. She is different, a cynic, unimpressed with all the highfalutin nonsense. “You’re the customer,” she chides a sycophantic Tyler. “You’re paying him to serve you.” Reed Birney and Judith Light play a wealthy couple whose marital problems are exposed during the service. Janet McTeer is a pompous delight as a powerful food critic. John Leguizamo is a name-dropping has-been actor.

Ultimately, this is a hilarious food film with stylish horror influences. It’s like Saw blended with Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The script mines a smug contempt for establishments that flaunt their farm-to-table practices like a badge of honor. Yet, one should approach the tongue-in-cheek tone with a grain of salt. Despite the semi-serious horror milieu, the atmosphere’s evolving sense of silliness must be embraced to fully enjoy these shenanigans. Airplane! represents the airline industry about as closely as The Menu embodies a high-end restaurant. Time and again, these idiotic victims do not behave like normal people. There are numerous examples, but any patron that would happily pull out their wallet to pay for the experience they get here would have to be either suicidal or certifiably insane. A healthy suspension of disbelief is required. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this far-fetched parody.

11-22-22

2 Responses to “The Menu”

  1. It’s hard for me not to like a movie with Anna Taylor-Joy. She’s become one of my favs. I liked the eerie and creepy mood. Very well acted and story kept moving along. I was enthralled. 3 1/2 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

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