Review: ‘The Menu’ Cleverly And Enjoyingly Chews Up Elitism 

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

By Samia Afsar

 

   If you have any dinner reservations this week, you might want to consider taking your order to-go after viewing Mark Mylod’s satirical horror and thriller “The Menu.”   

   “The Menu” is a cleverly written tale depicting class, elitism, and the horrors one is faced with when their ego is pulled apart and served back on a silver platter, forcing restaurant-goers to digest more than just some really good food. It was released in theaters in late November of 2022 and has just hit streaming services earlier this month. 

   The entirety of the almost two-hour-long movie takes place on a private island located in the Pacific Northwest, where renowned chef, and perhaps arguable cult leader, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) runs and maintains his upscale restaurant, Hawthorn. Slowik charges patrons $1,250 to indulge in a night of his fine, but really not so fine, dining.  

    “The Menu” begins with a boat ride to the secluded island where audience members are introduced to the salivating and vain one percent-ers that have been carefully selected to feast at Hawthorn that night. These diners include Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), an unbearably obnoxious foodie, and his replacement date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy); Lillian (Janet McTeer), a conceited career-ending food critic accompanied by her editor Ted (Paul Adelstein), who seems to lack a voice of his own. Also at dinner are three arrogant tech workers (Rob Yang, Mark St. Cyr, and Arturo Castro); an old, bored couple that has dined at the restaurant eleven times before (Judith Light and Reed Birney); and finally a fading actor (John Leguizamo) and his fed up assistant, Felicity (Aimee Carreo).

   Once on the island, the diners are met with their straight-faced, intimidating host, Elsa (Hong Chau), who does an excellent job at reminding them they are guests at the Hawthorne, not at Chick-fil-A. Definitely no “thank you’s” or “have a nice day” to be expected here! After a detailed tour of the island and the restaurant staff’s responsibilities, Elsa escorts the elite to Hawthorn, where unbeknownst to them they will experience the highs and lows of gourmet dining through Chef Slowik’s carefully crafted menu.  

   Acting and cinematography aside, the writing is what I personally believe makes Mylod’s film stellar. The script, which was written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, portrays a perfect commentary on the elite’s unsympathetic and unsatisfactory involvement in the world of the arts, making the film impeccably sharp, witty, dark, comedic, and perfectly poetic at its very core.

   Each character is exaggerated so eloquently that the actors’ performance never once becomes overpowering. Instead, each character’s dialogue compliments the next to perfectly execute the pretentiousness being illustrated. 

   In one notable scene, the diners are served a breadless bread plate made up of only its savory accompaniments. Inspired by class history and the concept of bread and grain being the food of the common man, the breadless bread plate suggests that since the guests are far from ordinary, they are not deserving of bread. Offended, some of the guests believe the dish is simply part of the overtop theatrics of the dining experience at Hawthorne. 

   “It’s gotta be a bit,” says one guest with an amused, childlike expression on his face just for his guise to shift to addled anger and disappointment within mere seconds. He humorously ends his dialogue with, “are you f*cking serious?” 

   Other guests, quite literally, eat up the irony. “Wait, you like this? He’s [Chef Slowik]  basically insulting you,” says Margot to her date, Tyler. To which he replies “No, no, no, you don’t get it. It’s a concept.”

   Simply put, if you are going to watch anything – watch “The Menu.” And if you’ve already seen it, tune in again with a friend, a neighbor, a pet, or even that ex you’ve been debating to call. Because the only thing better than experiencing such a beautifully crafted film such as that of Mylod’s “The Menu,” is observing someone else fortunate enough to experience it for the first time. Ah, how lucky!

   “The Menu” is currently available to stream on HBO Max, Prime Video, Vudu, and Redbox. Watch it, seriously.

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