In director Mark Mylod’s recent comedy and horror film “The Menu,” a reservation at Hawthorne’s is the ultimate conception of fine-dining with a twist.
Guests who travel to the remote island where the restaurant is located are treated to course after course of perfectly hand-crafted plates featuring local flora and fauna. Each dish follows a theme created by the infamous head chef, Julian Slowik, played by Ralph Fiennes.
As the night progresses, the guests must save room for dessert, as the evening comes together in a grand finale with Chef Slowik’s reimagination of the classic s’more.
“The Menu,” which premiered in theatres Nov. 18, following its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, has all of the ingredients to make a perfect film.
First, add the dream-like cinematography captured by cinematographer Peter Deming which reflects his previous work with director David Lynch in films such as “Mulholland Drive,” as well as the third season of “Twin Peaks.” Next, pour an ensemble cast led by Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, Janet McTeer, Reed Birney, Judith Light, John Leguizamo and Hong Chau. Then, stir the pot with wild writing by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy and producing by Adam McKay, Betsy Koch and Will Ferrell.
Finally, serve alongside a horrifying plot-twist that leaves the audience speechless as they try to figure out what they just ate.
As of Jan. 17, the film has grossed 38.3 million in both The United States and Canada, as well as 39.8 million in other countries. Out of 300 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, 89 percent have been positive.
While some critics have said the film needs more depth regarding its messages about the upper echelon and fine dining, I disagree. The idea that there has always been a connection between food and class is mentioned in the film. For the second course, Chef Slowik presents a simple bread plate, minus the bread. He reminds the guests that throughout history, the poor were often malnourished as they were limited to only eating bread and nothing more, while the rich were free to indulge. The clever connection between the differences in food for the rich and the poor adds the subtle and accurate historical context which deepens the plot and brings the film to life.
The best part of “The Menu” is the refreshing social commentary that deals with the realities of classism.
The metaphor of class is easily distinguished as those who give, represented by the kitchen staff as well as Taylor-Joy's character Margot Mills, who is an escort, compared to those who take, meaning those who eat at the restaurant.
The guests dining at Hawthorne’s that evening are unlikeable, yet familiar. Corrupt finance bros, a cheating husband, an out-of-touch actor and his stealing assistant, an insufferable food critic, the chef’s alcoholic mother and a self-proclaimed foodie played by Hoult.
As the chef reveals each course, his description of the plate becomes more and more unsettling as the theme for the evening is slowly revealed. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether the guests have spent their lives giving or taking, no one can avoid their fate. Between its satirical writing, horrifying imagery, social commentary and delightful cast, “The Menu” is a delicious film that captivates it audience long after the final course. The film is in theatres now and is available to stream on HBO with a subscription.