A group of wealthy people arrive on a mysterious island and get the meal of a lifetime in Mark Mylod’s psychological thriller. . Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, the film stars Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor Joy.
A five-star restaurant called Hawthorne is creating a special menu for some high-profile guests. A famous food critic, a “movie” star, some sports stars, affluent couples, and fans of Chef Slowik. They received invitations to eat at the five star restaurant and showed up with their egos, arrogance and money. The outlier, Margo Mills, is Tyler’s (Nicolas Hoult) date. She was not on the guest list and Chef Slowik was surprised to see her there. The facade does not impress Mills. She knows something is wrong with the atmosphere as soon as she arrives. Elsa (Hong Chau) is Slowik’s second-in-command and helps keep the place running smoothly.
Hawthorne’s kitchen is run like the military. They bring food to their guests’ seats, respond to commands in unison, and only speak when spoken to. No one thinks this is weird except Margo. The chef looks at his guest with disdain. Perhaps a hint of things to come? He makes his dishes based on his life and the lives of his guests. He seems to know secret information about all of them and reveals these facts learned through various meals. These people are meant to be in Hawthorne, and everyone but Margo deserves what’s in store for them.
The menu provides unnerving satirical commentary on the class divide and how the rich are a bottomless pit of need that will never be satisfied. He acknowledges that Margo doesn’t come from money and watches that she is a sex worker, which fascinates him. Interacting with the rich is a soulless experience that takes all the fun and love out of any art. At one point, Margo talks about enjoying his line of work until interacting with arrogant rich men killed any love she had for him. Essentially, Hawthorne is the poor guy getting up and using food as a harbinger of death. Food service and sex workers are singled out here because society looks down on the profession. It is a reminder that these professions deserve respect.
The star cast of The menu is in perfect unison. Judith Light, John Leguizamo, Hong Chau, Ralph Fiennes, Ana Taylor Joy, Nicolas Hoult, Janet McTeer and many others believed enough in Reiss and Tracy’s cleverly written script to be a part of it. There is chemistry throughout, with the actors playing off each other and supporting each other’s actions as the film progresses. It is important to highlight Chau, who has been sweeping her lately. She fully commits to each role. The Watchers, The Whale, and now this. Chau is going to walk away with something this awards season. I just know
The sound design and score by Collin Stetson are bombastic in a good way. The movie wouldn’t be as enjoyable without her. The sound goes through your body like a knife. Every screech, clap, and clang of glass is clean and precise. Maloyd weaves these elements into his deliberately awkward style of filmmaking with glimpses of Ari Aster’s aesthetic. The director guides the audience down a winding path that will disorient them, so they will never see what is coming.