The Menu Is A Full Course Of Dark Humor

The Menu still of all the dinner guests

The Menu is an incredibly nuanced film with layer after layer in its fantastical feast, and depending on the viewer, you stop and focus on a particular course. It could be a call to the wealthy and working class that a la Hunger Games, “if we burn, you burn with us.” Or the destructive nature of seeking validation, critiquing critics, or simply a white man’s ego run amok. Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) travel to a remote island to enjoy a fancy meal, but the chef has more in mind than mere food.

The Menu, directed by Mark Mylod and written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, reminds me of Turn of The Screw, where viewers’ biases and experiences determine their main takeaway. But do not let that fool you. The Menu entertains from beginning to end with its dark comedy and all-around magnetic performances. 

The Menu Asks Who’s Hungry

The Menu still of Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult)  leaning against a concrete wall by the pier.
Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult in the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Anya Taylor-Joy, as Margot is your traveling companion. Her partner aboard, Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), along with the rest of the people, leave you—like Margot—confused. You know there is something amiss, but the rich are different. Margot’s attendance changes the dynamics of this special meal but does little to slow down the trajectory. Any horror buff knows seclusion rarely equals safety. So when the group of wealthy guests transfers from a boat to a deserted island, save for the chef and his staff, you shake your head. It is “in space, no one can hear you scream” racing across your mind. 

The sterile, rustic look is another warning sign, but only Margot is uncomfortable. Margot’s reactions to Tyler, the rest of the guests, and the staff’s behavior make you chuckle amidst the mayhem. If you worked in the service industry, you understand the delicious joy you get from clapping back at an entitled customer. Or the happiness of saying “no” to them. 

Last Supper With Immediate Judgment

The Menu still of Lillian (Janet McTeer), Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Ted (Paul Adelstein) sitting at their tables, staring.
(From L-R): Janet McTeer, Nicholas Hoult, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Paul Adelstein in the film THE MENU. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The Menu critiques power dynamics, particularly class. Watching the characters interact is like watching a game of entitled oneupmanship. The rich are not all old money, though a pair is present. John Leguizamo’s character is a movie star, though not as famous as he used to be. He crows to his assistant Felicity (Aimee Carrero) that he is close with the renowned chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Another guest is food critic Lillian (Janet McTeer), attending with a yes man, Ted (Paul Adelstein), who sides with whatever she says. 

Then there is a trio of tech bros, regardless if that is their profession. They have the entitled air that, given their knowledge and connections, they can have whatever they want. The way Julian insults the guests, yet they humor it as a quirky experience—Tyler even labeling Margot uncultured and clueless—have you relishing when the tables turn. That turn begins with tortillas. The Menu makes you laugh, yell, gasp and recite “that couldn’t be me.”

After the tortillas, dinner guests and the audience are on the same page. The hilarity comes from watching the entitled rich realize money and connections do not save you from everything. The Menu is also a reckoning, a judgment for everyone who has pandered to the rich or abused their power. The rich here do not see service workers as people, just means to get what they want; food. Yet, service workers are vital in society, as evidenced during the pandemic. Critics, too, forget there is a person with feelings behind the work they praise or tear to shreds. 

Margot May Be Hungry, But You Will Leave Full

The Menu still of Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Julian (Ralph Fiennes) talking.
Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes in the film THE MENU. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The acting is across the board outstanding. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfect as Margot, exhibiting a cool yet confused and suspicious expression. Ralph Fiennes, as Julian, fits the white man on a mission of payback in the most artistic way possible. Nicholas Hoult delivers the most annoying character out of the bunch. Every time his character, Tyler, disrespects or condescends to Margot, you want to throttle him. This is a movie where you laugh and yell at the screen.   

The situation in The Menu, including the dinner guests’ cluelessness, feels plausible. Because the rich cannot fathom a situation where they even hear “no,” let alone an instance where their lives are in danger. That is why it takes them so long to catch on. They are in their usual wealthy bubble, dining with a top-tier chef in a secluded island location—safe as houses.

Yet it also comes down to a burned-out white man exhibiting entitlement that others cannot grasp or fully appreciate his genius. The Menu merges violence and the elite foodie obsession with comedic wit and sharp direction; a memorable critique of societal dynamics. My biggest takeaway—do not bother with fancy restaurants unless you want to starve.

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