“Do not eat; experience.”
The Menu is a black comedy that lives up to the hype and then some, offering biting social satire, witty commentary on consumerism, and a visual feast for foodies amongst us.
The film follows a group of socialites invited to dine at an exclusive restaurant located on an island. The group is largely comprised of the most unlikeable types of people: name droppers, cheaters, self-proclaimed experts in their fields, and guys who unironically say things like “You know who I am, right?” in order to get what they want. The chef, played by the legendary Ralph Fiennes, offers his guests a dining experience like no other…but it comes at a high cost.
Just as describing every intricate detail of a dish at a fancy restaurant may spoil the experience for the uninitiated, there’s not much I can say about the plot of The Menu without ruining your experience. All I can say, above all else, is director Mark Mylod really took me by surprise with this one. I went in expecting another disposable “elevated horror” film (God, I’m sick of that phrase…) and what I got was so, so much more.
In fact, it can be argued that the events within The Menu are a commentary on the state of filmmaking and the modern audience. There are many among us who fancy themselves “experts” on film, and they eagerly tear apart each and every moment of popular films rather than simply experiencing them for what they are. Likewise, the guests at the exclusive restaurant all think the world of themselves due to their “expertise” in fine dining, and they snobbishly judge the food they’re served and demand their money’s worth, asking for alterations to the menu, larger portions of certain dishes, and an entirely different experience altogether.
Perhaps it’s a reach, but I think Mylod is criticizing our universal tendency to want rather than to experience. Honestly, can you think of the last time you truly experienced a movie for what it was? I sure can’t; I’m always longing for more of certain elements, thinking to myself what I might’ve done differently (oh, expert filmmaker I am!), and eagerly awaiting the moment the movie’s over so I can talk about what I liked and disliked via various social media. In short, the experience of simply being at a movie and taking it for what it is is often lost on me. We’re hungry people, us moviegoers, and at times we can be quite insatiable.
There’s a moment in the film when the chef is explaining to the protagonist, Margot (played wonderfully by Anya Taylor-Joy), that in life there are the creators and the consumers: those who slave over their art, whatever it may be, and those who consume it.
But, theories about “the message” aside, The Menu also stands on its own as a highly entertaining film filled with dark comedy, suspense, and a fantastic score that I absolutely adore. Every element of The Menu works, and whatever you go into the film expecting, Mylod finds a way to subvert those expectations and offer a unique experience you won’t soon forget.
There’s plenty more to say about The Menu, but a lot of it’s already been said in other reviews, so I’ll eschew the fluff and skip right to the meat of the dish: Go see it; it’s two hours you’ll positively savor.
This is only the second film I’ve seen in 2023, and I know it came out last year, but I can already tell this will be a highlight of this year’s film viewing experience.
Also, upon watching The Menu, you’re likely to flinch every time someone claps their hands together from here on out.