By: Nadia Liu
Public Relations Manager
The Menu, released in theaters on Nov. 18, is now streaming on HBO Max. Mark Mylod – who directed the acclaimed limited series Succession – helmed this comedic horror movie, which features a stellar cast including Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and Ralph Fiennes. The Menu follows a young couple, food enthusiast Tyler and his cynical date Margot, who visit an exclusive destination restaurant on a remote island, along with an elite cast of tech bros, celebrities, and culture journalists. As the night progresses, renowned chef Julian Slowik, played by Fiennes, serves a scrupulous array of dishes, each tailored to the group of patrons. However, the unexpected presence of Margot, a late replacement for Tyler’s original date, ruins the chef’s meticulous plans, setting off a series of events that rapidly escalates.
The highlight of the film is the cast’s emotive performances. Fiennes gives a nuanced performance as the tortured chef, portraying Slowik’s complexity and internal struggle brilliantly with precise micro-expressions. Taylor-Joy plays the down-to-earth Margot and beautifully executes an intense scene of feminine rage, getting her nominated for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy Motion Picture at the Golden Globes, alongside Fiennes for Best Actor.
Seth Reiss and Will Tracy wrote the screenplay for the movie, which takes its inspiration from Tracy’s honeymoon to Norway, during which he traveled by boat to a restaurant on a private island and began imagining all the things that could go wrong. To conceptualize The Menu’s intricate dishes, which include laser-engraved tortillas and a “breadless bread plate,” Mylod brought in chef Dominique Crenn, who received three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Crenn told Vanity Fair, “Usually, they have prop food in film. But it doesn’t taste like anything, it doesn’t look beautiful… I said to the director I wanted to make the food as if they were eating at a restaurant.”
The Menu’s satirical themes of class and privilege are not overly complex. They are an accessible, accurate, and insightful depiction of pretentiousness and classism in contemporary culture. The movie is consistently funny, with the skeptical Margot delivering cheeky one-liners and the plot twists becoming more and more bizarre. The pacing and tone of the movie are exhilarating and stressful, ending with a satisfying resolution. One thing to note is that the movie is more graphic and violent than the trailer may make it seem. Intriguing, intricate, and wickedly enjoyable, The Menu is perfect for fans of Knives Out and Fresh.
(Sources: Variety, Vanity Fair, Rotten Tomatoes, Golden Globes, NPR)