Taking a bite out of ‘The Menu’

Max Handler, Contributing Writer

Cole Farrah

The Menu” opens on a dock in the Pacific Northwest, populated by the ultra-wealthy. It introduces characters Margot and Tyler, played by Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult, respectively. The film gives little information about the two characters outside of the fact that Margot is Tyler’s date, which adds suspicion to the seemingly unsuspecting story.

The exposition reveals that these affluent individuals are taking an excursion to esteemed Hawthorn, a restaurant located on a private island, run by stoic celebrity chef Julian Slowik. Elsa, played by Hong Chau, offers a tour to the diners when they arrive. As the dinner begins, movie-goers are introduced to the wealthy patrons and given snippets of their backstories.

However, the evening fanfare comes to a halt when Margot challenges Slowik’s culinary expertise. Feelings of unease set in as viewers question the sinister side of the celebrity chef and the island itself. The puzzling plot examines the diners’ psyches and livelihoods and reveals their gruesome fates.

I must admit that I am not an avid horror fan, but I do appreciate a solid comedy. “The Menu” did not disappoint with its offbeat one-liners and macabre irony. Taylor-Joy’s character does not hold back, maintaining a witty demeanor in the face of unimaginable horrors. Fiennes also shines in the film, proving to be the perfect casting for the cold yet biting Chef Slowik.

Running continuously throughout “The Menu” is a critique of the ultra-wealthy and their characteristic overconsumption. The socioeconomic commentary manifests in the unsavory actions and attitudes of the diners as well as their pasts as they handle the twists of their luxurious excursion.

The very essence of the island and on-site restaurant represents the pleasures only obtainable by an affluent bunch. Snobbish inclinations fester around the dining tables: a stench arising from an ungrateful couple, corrupt tech executives, a washed-up movie star and arrogant food critics. These caricatures of the upper class make it easy for viewers to remain apathetic in the face of their gory misery.

The film’s ambitious goal of critiquing class divisions can sometimes lend itself to a surface-level commentary. Saying “The Menu” bit off more than it could chew would be an overstatement, but its critique can come across as broad and uninventive. Aside from Margot and Chef Slowik, the characters are one-dimensional and serve no other purpose than to advance the scathing condemnation of the ultra-wealthy.

Despite these flaws, “The Menu” redeems itself with striking visuals, particularly the culinary masterpieces conjured up by Hawthorn’s fearless kitchen staff. These creations would fit perfectly on an influencer’s Instagram account.

“The Menu” is a fast-paced romp that both comedy and horror fans will appreciate. If you have an appetite for profound social commentary, look elsewhere.

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