"The Menu" is the Most Recent Film by Mark Mylod, Known for his Work on Television Series. Here it Comes to the Big Screen with a Mix of Horror and Comedy. This is Our Review of "The Menu".
Photo: YT-20th Century Studios
LatinAmerican Post | Staff
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Leer en español: Reseña de "El menú": terror y comedia redundantes
The premise of "The Menu" is simple: a group of twelve very high-profile diners have paid an extraordinary sum of money to have a position at the restaurant of acclaimed chef Julian. The restaurant is located on an island where customers, isolated from the rest of the world, will taste a unique menu that the chef has prepared especially for them with ingredients from the island. Among the dinner attendees are celebrities, wealthy young men who work at the restaurant's investment company, frequent customers of the chef, a food critic with her assistant, chef Julian's mother, and a rich kid who loves cooking with his date.
Its director, Mark Mylod, is best known for his work on television. He has directed no less than 13 episodes of the acclaimed "Succession", which combines, like this film, although differently, comedy with a kind of corporate suspense. Now he returns to the big screen with "The Menu", whose script was written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy. Here we will see a combination between comedy and terror that will grow with the passing of the dishes and that is available on Latin American billboards.
Comedy and social criticism
The viewer will quickly realize that "The Menu" makes fun of the snobbery of its characters. The camera mostly follows Tyler, played by Nicholas Hoult, the rich kid with a fondness for cooking. Tyler takes photos of all the dishes and doesn't let his date, Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, smoke, so she won't ruin his taste buds before dinner. Margot doesn't understand this hobby of Tyler's and thanks to her, we understand the ridicule in which the film wants to put him. She, like us, is surprised by everything that happens: the chef's celebrity, Tyler's fans, the price of the dishes, the secrecy of the restaurant.
We laugh several times, not only at Tyler but also at the other diners, as they are all a parody of an elite who are willing to pay anything to sample Julian's menu to maintain their status. However, the film begins to hint that the tone will not always be humorous: the assistant chef, Elsa, played by Hong Chau, has a deadpan, ominous air that lets us see that there is something fishy about this restaurant.
Both Margot and us viewers will soon know that Chef Julian, played by Ralph Fiennes, is carrying out a plan with his menu and that this is a horror movie. Only she understands how the dishes offered by the chef are subtle insults to his diners. She misses the isolation and confinement, with the military tone of the chef's assistants in the kitchen.
In any case, you don't have to be such a good reader to realize that Chef Julian hates his customers, as the film's expository dialogue quickly lets you know, rather than letting the viewer find out. With the passing of the dishes, the chef makes his resentment more and more explicit. This, to the point where the viewer can feel a little tired of the over-explanation of each of his actions. The film aims to make fun of the excessive explanation that this haute cuisine requires to be enjoyed. With her explanatory dialogues, she sins in what she criticizes, since she seems desperate because we understand that it is a social criticism and a mockery of the rich.
About not swallowing whole
Curiously, the most interesting thing about the film is not what it proudly shows (the criticism of the rich). We have already seen this parody of the rich combined with terror and crime, better developed in movies like "Parasite" or in series like "The White Lotus." The novelty of "The Menu" is the criticism, not of the elite, but of the fact that luxury and snobbery force it to swallow it whole. The first time diners and spectators get scared in the restaurant and in the cinema respectively, chef Julian tells both of us "Calm down, you guys paid for this". This dialogue is interesting since it puts us in a similar place to those whom the chef hates and who he intends to mock and then take revenge on. He accuses us of paying (a movie ticket, a streaming service) to be shaken and even mocked.
In addition to making them see how they do not enjoy their food, but rather pay for starving and being ridiculed for having had a position in his restaurant, the chef invites his diners to wonder why they did not try to flee sooner, why they were not surprised by what was happening; Ultimately, why did they always swallow whole? Thus, Julian reveals how his crisis with his profession, that of pleasing strangers, is due to the fact that after having achieved a certain status, he would never be questioned or challenged. His rich clients would always eat what he served without complaint, even if the plate was empty.
So it is that "The menu" shows how haute cuisine is so saturated with discourse that it has already lost its meaning. In this ambiguity is the interesting thing about this proposal: how the desperate attempt to fill something with meaning can make it meaningless. This is why only those who remind the chef of the meaning of cooking will be saved: to calm hunger. The viewer must, therefore, also criticize "The Menu" and not swallow it full in order to leave the movie theater unscathed.